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Ukraine says transfer of 11 Ukrainian POWs is in Hungary’s interest. Budapest denies its involvement 

20 June, 2023 Tuesday

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba believes that 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been taken from Russia to Hungary in the interests of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban


Kuleba made the statement on the United News telethon. 

"There was one simple goal: Viktor Orban had to show Hungarians in Hungary and abroad that he was their only defender. This whole operation was implemented in the political interests of one person," Kuleba said.

He noted that Ukrainian defenders found themselves on the territory of Hungary "as a result of an essentially covert operation, which was officially implemented by the Order of Malta, their representative office in Hungary, and the Russian Orthodox Church." He added that, according to him, other players, not only from Hungary, were unofficially involved in this "operation.”

The minister said that Ukrainian prisoners of war who are currently staying in Hungary are under control, and even meetings with their relatives are "extremely limited." 

"The consul and the ambassador are not allowed to visit them, despite our persistent demands. We are using all levers to gain access to our citizens and bring them home. At the same time, we keep in touch with their loved ones to support them as much as possible in this difficult moment," Kuleba added.

Hungary's reaction

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that official Budapest was not involved in the transfer of 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia. He made the statement during a speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), DW reports.

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 state of Hungary is not involved at all," the minister said.

He emphasized that Ukrainians "are free to move around in Hungary, they are free to do what they want to do."

"And if they want to get in touch with the Ukrainian authorities, they are free to do so, I can guarantee you that," Szijjarto said.

Information available regarding 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.

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