Espreso. Global

By taking Ukrainian POWs, Hungary is playing along with Russian propaganda, preparing PSYOP against Ukraine – ombudsman

22 June, 2023 Thursday
20:26

Hungary, having received 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia, is preparing an information and psychological operation to accuse Ukraine of unwillingness to exchange POWs with Russia

Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said this during a telethon.

“I believe that Hungary violated humanitarian law, because you cannot just take prisoners of war from the territory of the Russian Federation. Even if you (Hungary - ed.) had some humanitarian grounds, you should have informed Ukraine first. You should have informed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),” the ombudsman said.

At the same time, Lubinets emphasized that this morning he met with the head of the ICRC mission in Ukraine, who, for his part, said that he had not received any information about Russia's transfer of 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war to Hungary.

The ombudsman also noted that, once on the territory of Hungary, these Ukrainians lose their status as prisoners of war.

In this regard, he said, there is no explanation for why Hungary restricts their freedom of movement, contacts and does not allow Ukrainian diplomats to visit them.

“We are trying to establish contact with them. We know where they are. We do not understand Hungary's position, why our diplomats have not been allowed to see them so far. In fact, they are in isolation. They have limited communication. Their cell phones, which they were given to communicate with their relatives, were taken away. Yes, we know that some of them were able to visit their relatives, but we do not know the details, nor why these Ukrainian citizens, being on the territory of Hungary, are in the same situation as prisoners of war,” he said.

According to Lubinets, “this behavior of Hungary is playing along with Russian propaganda.”

“Now they (Hungary - ed.), according to my information, are planning to launch a PSYOP to discredit the Ukrainian authorities saying that allegedly, Russia wants to hand over prisoners of war, and Ukraine has no initiative,” he said.

In turn, he emphasized: “Ukraine always has initiatives to conduct an exchange. We are handing over the lists and are ready to make the exchange.”

According to Lubinets, he has already sent letters to his Russian and Hungarian counterparts to explain how Ukrainian prisoners of war were taken to Hungary.

What is known about the transfer of Ukrainian prisoners of war to Hungary

On June 9, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it had handed over a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war to Hungary. The Ukrainian intelligence service said it had no knowledge of this. International organizations, including the Red Cross, also had no relevant information.

Later, Hungary confirmed the transfer of 11 prisoners of war, noting that it was a "gesture of goodwill" on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén confirmed to ATV that 11 prisoners of war  have been transferred from Russia to Hungary. These are Transcarpathian Hungarians.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry summoned the Chargé d'Affaires of Hungary to provide explanations.

On June 16, Commissioner for Missing Persons Oleh Kotenko said that Ukraine had established the whereabouts of 11 prisoners of war. A few days later, it was reported that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded that a consul be allowed to visit them. At the same time, Budapest continued to disregard the rights and fundamental freedoms of people and ignored all attempts at constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian embassy. 

On June 19, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine noted that, together with the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War and other involved bodies of Ukraine, "they continue to take active measures to return home allegedly 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war, whom Hungary, without the knowledge of the Ukrainian government or international human rights organizations, took out of Russia." 

"All attempts by Ukrainian diplomats in recent days to establish direct contact with Ukrainian citizens have been unsuccessful. This, as well as information received from the families of some of them, indicates that the assurances of the Hungarian authorities about the allegedly free status of Ukrainian defenders in Hungary are not true. In fact, they are being held in isolation, do not have access to open sources of information, their communication with families takes place in the presence of third parties, and they are denied contact with the Ukrainian embassy," the Foreign Ministry said. 

On June 19, European Commission Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Peter Stano said that Hungary should explain its actions regarding the transfer of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia and its communication on this issue.

On June 20, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war were taken from Russia in the interests of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. His Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, denied Kuleba's words, rejecting the government's involvement in the exchange. According to him, the transfer of Ukrainian prisoners to the Hungarian side took place as a result of "discussions between the church and religious organizations."

The Hungarian opposition clearly denied that the agreement on the POWs release took place without the government's involvement. Commenting on Szijjarto’s statement, opposition leader Péter Márki-Zay recalled that Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén was involved in the process, which the latter confirmed publicly.

On June 21, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said that Hungary had violated international law and the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war when it accepted prisoners of war from Russia.

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