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World News

Hungary summons Ukrainian ambassador over raids on ethnic Hungarian organisation

BUDAPEST/KYIV (Reuters) - Hungary summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and accused its neighbor of intimidation on Monday after Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) raided the offices of ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is seen during a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

The two countries have repeatedly clashed in recent years over what Hungary said were curbs on the rights of around 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine to use their native tongue, especially in education, after Ukraine passed a law in 2017 restricting the use of minority languages in schools.

Last month Ukraine barred entry of two Hungarian government officials over what it called meddling in local elections, an accusation Hungary denied.

The Hungarian Cultural Association in Transcarpathia said in a statement on Monday that forces of Ukraine’s security service had raided their headquarters and the home of their chairman, searching for evidence of “activities aimed at violently changing the borders.” They said the house searches were related to an earlier court case.

The Association called on Ukrainian authorities to end what it called a “witch hunt.”

Szijjarto said Hungary had protested against the raids at Ukraine’s foreign ministry and added he would also raise the issue at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday.

“It is unacceptable that while a country ... wants to be part of the transatlantic community, it continuously intimidates and puts pressure on a minority belonging to a NATO member,” Szijjarto said in a video statement on his Facebook page.

The Ukrainian government was not immediately available for comment.

The Ukrainian State Security Service confirmed the raid in a statement on its website.

It said the Security Service conducted searches at local charitable foundations in the Transcarpathian region checking “information about the involvement of the foreign fund in activities aimed at violating the state sovereignty of Ukraine.”

They said the investigation was also looking at assistance to a foreign state by certain Ukrainian public figures, suspected of “supporting the state bodies of a neighbouring country in conducting subversive activities to the detriment of Ukraine.”

Without mentioning names, the Security Service said they had seized computers and materials, and the investigation would continue.

Reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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