Budapest summons Ukrainian ambassador over ‘raids’ on ethnic Hungarian organisation

File photo. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto during a visit to Gdansk, north Poland, 22 October 2020. [Adam Warszawa/EPA/EFE]

Hungary summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and accused its neighbor of intimidation on Monday (30 November) after Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) raided the offices of ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said.

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.

Hungary wants EU to review Ukraine ties over minority languages law

Hungary will ask the European Union to review its ties with Ukraine over Kyiv’s decision to scrap teaching subjects in languages of its ethnic minorities, including in Hungarian, from its secondary school curriculum.

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.

Hungary and Ukraine exchange warnings over Transcarpathia

Tensions have worsened between Budapest and Kyiv over a Ukrainian language law, which Hungary considers hostile to its minority population in the Transcarpathia region

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

Szijjártó 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,” Szijjártó said in a video statement on his Facebook page.

Hungary blocks NATO statement on Ukraine over minority rights row

Hours before a Russian state visit to Budapest on Wednesday (30 October), Hungary vetoed a joint NATO statement about Ukraine because it did not mention the “deprivation of rights” of the Hungarian minority in the neighbouring country’s Transcarpathia region.

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.

EU Commission to stay out of Ukraine-Hungary row

The recent tensions over Hungary’s election interference in Ukraine, which have led Budapest to threaten to block Kyiv’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, should be resolved bilaterally, a Commissions spokesperson said on Tuesday, (27 October).

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