Donald Tusk is a politician who was President of the Council of Europe, the political arm of the EU. Since leaving his role in the 27-nation bloc more than two years ago, the former Polish prime minister has remained at the forefront of European politics. The president of the European People’s Party condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggressive” invasion of Ukraine over the past month.
Mr Tusk confirmed on Tuesday that, due to the Ukraine conflict, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic had refused to participate in the meeting with Hungary in Budapest.
He said the humiliation of Hungary by his fellow so-called Visegrád state was a “protest” against the “pro-Putin” policies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is seen as an ally of the Kremlin strongman.
Tusk previously criticized Russia over Brexit, accusing Moscow of meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The public vote saw Britons resolutely vote to secede from the European trading bloc, which joined Britain in 1973 when it was still the European Economic Community.
However, in a speech in 2018, Tusk said there were “very clear” signs that Russia had influenced Britain’s decision to take back its sovereignty.
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He said there were “very clear traces of Russia’s involvement in the Brexit referendum campaign”.
The former EU man gave no evidence for the claim as he spoke at a conference, organized by the Pontifical John Paul II University in Kraków in southern Poland.
The politician used the event, which explores the future of the EU, to flag Moscow’s alleged attempts to steer politics across Europe.
He continued: “Our problem is Russia, which is destroying whatever it can destroy in Europe.
“I can give many examples to prove that Russia will not refrain from any means to undermine European unity.”
The other, he said, was a cyberattack against the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.
Despite Mr Tusk’s bold claims, he denies having an “anti-Russian obsession”.
However, he added: “If anything [a nation] somewhere where the main political priority is to destroy Europe, this is of course Russia.”
During the wide-ranging speech, the politician also warned fellow EU leaders not to “cheat” themselves over the bloc’s relations with the US.
Attacking then US President Donald Trump, he said: “Never in my life has America been a problem for Europe.
“What happened under my Donald Trump administration is a new phenomenon.
“America is sailing away from Europe today and that was intentional.”