Hungary to deploy troops near its border with Ukraine -defence ministry

BUDAPEST, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Hungary will deploy an unspecified number of troops near its border with Ukraine, for both security purposes and humanitarian tasks, the defence ministry said on Tuesday on the government's official Facebook page.

Several countries in Eastern Europe have made preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine if a crisis with Russia escalates.

"Hungary's security is the most important, we are reinforcing the Ukraine-Hungary border," the statement said.

The ministry said that defending the borders and preparing for a humanitarian mission were equally important tasks. The ministry did not say how many troops would be deployed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and authorized the deployment of troops there, adding to Moscow's existing build up of forces around Ukraine and deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.

Hungarian Defence Minister Tibor Benko said the deployments were needed in case the conflict currently focused in eastern Ukraine spreads across the country toward Hungary's borders, the national news agency MTI reported.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with his national security cabinet Tuesday morning and told the defence ministry to prevent armed groups from entering Hungary and carrying out manoeuvres there, Benko said.

The minister said that in the following days Hungarians will see military equipment heading towards eastern Hungary.

In the western parts of the country this week the military is due to hold annual exercises along with NATO troops including a small U.S. contingent, the ministry said last week.

The U.S. has approached Hungary about an additional temporary deployment of troops in the country. Benko said on Jan 31 that there was no need for foreign NATO troops in Hungary to respond to the situation in Ukraine. read more

Reporting by Anita Komuves; Editing by Alex Richardson and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.