Budapest needs to protect ethnic Hungarians living in the western part of the bordering country, FM Peter Szijjarto has said

Hungary has military plans on how to protect ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has revealed. Budapest is ready to act in defense of 150,000 people it considers its own, he revealed in an interview on Friday.

“Our country has prepared emergency war scenarios,” the minister told Index news website. He said the Hungarian government wanted to avoid using them, which is why it sought a peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, rejected the idea of offering concessions to Russia to secure a ceasefire, and claims his country can defeat Russia with the help of Western backers. The Hungarian foreign minister commented on the two countries’ objectives, saying his country has different interests than Ukraine.

“And what is the Ukrainian interest? To involve as many countries as possible in this conflict, at least through arms shipments. Our interest on the other hand is to stay out of this conflict and minimize the risk of getting dragged into a war,” Szijjarto said.

Szijjarto claimed that after Russia attacked Ukraine, Budapest “closed all the issues” that had caused tensions with Kiev before.

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Ukraine accuses Hungary of having designs on its land

Kiev has long accused Budapest of encouraging secessionism among its Hungarian diaspora, including by allegedly secretly giving citizenship to ethnic Hungarians. In 2018, Kiev kicked out the Hungarian consul in the town of Beregovo over the issue. The mission’s staff was previously filmed apparently handing out citizenship paperwork to Ukrainian Hungarians and instructing them to keep it a secret.

Relations between the two nations took a turn for the worse in 2017, after Kiev adopted a law which set out a roadmap for removing minority languages from Ukrainian schools. Budapest said it was discriminatory against ethnic Hungarians and pledged to stand in the way of Ukraine’s plans to join NATO and the EU unless the law is scrapped.

Despite Szijjarto’s assessment that the tensions are in the past, his country has received harsh criticism from Kiev in recent months. In May, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk accused Budapest of cozying up to Russia for its “cheap gas,” and secretly wishing to seize the Hungarian-majority parts of Ukraine.

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