© File PhotoHungarian PM Viktor Orban
Hungary's right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told a meeting of his ruling Fidesz party that sanctions against Russia imposed by the European Union should be lifted, the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet reports. Orban made the remarks at a closed-door meeting of his party on September 21.

Orban, the only EU leader who maintains warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a harsh critic of EU sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

According to Magyar Nemzet, Orban said -- without giving a source -- that the EU sanctions had driven up gas prices and inflation. He claimed that if sanctions were rescinded, gas prices would drop by 50 percent immediately while inflation would also fall.

The paper quoted Orban as saying that without sanctions, Europe would be able to avoid a looming recession, reiterating his earlier stance that the sanctions were hurting Europe more than Russia.

On his Facebook page, Orban posted from the party meeting, "The Brussels sanctions have pushed Europe into an energy crisis."

In July, Orban said the EU had "shot itself in the lungs" with ill-considered economic sanctions on Russia, which, unless rolled back, risked destroying the European economy.

Orban, who was reelected for a fourth consecutive term in April, has clashed often with the European Union over issues such as judicial independence, public procurement, LGBTQ+ rights, and media, academic, and religious freedoms.

On September 18, the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, called for the elimination of 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in EU funding earmarked for Hungary over corruption, rights, and rule-of-law disputes.

Last week, the European Parliament approved a resolution saying Hungary was no longer a "full democracy," prompting Fidesz to accuse it of "attacking Hungary again."