Tensions mount between Ukraine and Hungary over Budapest's Russia stance

3 minute read

Ukrainian and Russian flags are seen on a table before the talks between officials of the two countries in the Brest region, Belarus March 3, 2022. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

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  • Hungary summoned Ukraine's ambassador on Wednesday
  • Hungarian PM Orban won red new term on Sunday
  • Ukrainian president said Orban fears Russia

April 7 (Reuters) - Ukraine accused Hungary of undermining the unity of the European Union on Thursday and Budapest told Kyiv to stop meddling in its affairs, deepening a row between the neighbours over the Hungarian response to Russia's invasion.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has condemned the invasion of Ukraine and has not vetoed EU sanctions against Moscow, but he has refrained from criticising President Vladimir Putin directly and said he does not agree with sanctions. read more

Tensions rose on Wednesday when Hungary summoned Ukraine's ambassador over what it said were offensive comments by Kyiv, and after Budapest broke ranks with the EU by saying it was prepared to pay roubles for Russian gas. read more

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"The Russian Federation is trying to transfer payments for gas supplies to Europe into the national currency in order to save the Russian economy against the backdrop of international sanctions. The Russian military machine needs resources to continue the war against Ukraine," Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Thursday.

"In this context, we consider the statement about the readiness to pay for Russian gas in roubles to be an unfriendly position in relation to our state. Such statements also contradict the consolidated position of the European Union, which has fundamentally refused to satisfy the Russian whim."

He said that if Hungary really wanted to help end the war, it should stop undermining EU unity, support new sanctions, provide military assistance to Ukraine and not "create additional sources of funding for Russia's military machine".

Noting that Ukrainians and Hungarians were united by centuries of political, economic and cultural ties, he said: "It is never too late to get on the right side of history."

HUNGARY HITS BACK

Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday, three days after nationalist Orban was re-elected, that his country had condemned Russia's invasion, acknowledged Ukraine's sovereignty and taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war.

Criticising Kyiv at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday, Szijjarto said it as "time for the Ukrainians to stop insulting Hungary and the Hungarian people."

"It would be good if they could stop their constant meddling into Hungary’s internal affairs," he said. "They are seeking and expecting help, while at the same time launching ignoble attacks and making allegations. These actions are difficult to reconcile."

The EU has imposed a range of sanctions on Moscow, which calls its actions a "special military operation", but has struggled to remain united over banning oil and gas imports because so many member states rely heavily on Russian energy.

Orban has rejected the idea of curbs on oil and gas imports from Russia, saying that would wreck Hungary's economy. Orban, whose government has pursued close business relations with Moscow, won Sunday's election partly on a pledge to preserve security of gas supply for Hungarian households.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who says an embargo on Russian gas and oil is needed to halt Russia in Ukraine, said on Tuesday Orban feared Russia's influence and would have to choose between Moscow and the "other world".

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Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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