The Visegrad countries – Czechia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – approved an official statement on Monday (26 April) condemning the recently revealed Russian military covert operation in Czechia, namely a blast of ammunition depot in 2014.
However, they rejected a harsher version of the statement that was deemed unacceptable by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, known for a much friendlier stance towards Moscow.
The initial version of the declaration, drafted by Poland, was much tougher, calling for the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and voicing strong support for Ukraine and Belarus. It said Nord Stream 2 would “adversely affect the energy security of Europe”.
Slovakia has already decided to expel three Russian diplomats in solidarity with Czechia and Poland has been in a long-standing diplomatic row with Moscow.
Russia has so far expelled five staff members of the Polish embassy in Moscow after Poland declared three Russian diplomats personae non gratae for violating their diplomatic status. Hungary has not announced similar steps against Russia so far.
Orbán, unlike his Polish counterpart, has maintained good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been vocal in his criticism of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea. Hungary is currently the only EU country using the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V.
Due to the Hungarian position, the final V4 declaration of solidarity with Czechia was shortened.
“Together with the prime minister of Czechia we strongly condemn illegal and violent actions carried out by the Russian intelligence operatives. We will not allow these activities to divide Europe. Visegrád Group countries are determined to take measures together with fellow member states of the European Union to reinforce our resilience,” V4 prime ministers stated.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that during the Polish presidency of the V4, the group’s activity in relation to the eastern policy covered a number of topics, including the situation in Belarus and the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Morawiecki also confirmed that a videoconference between foreign ministers in the V4 and the Eastern Partnership format, bringing together the EU and six post-Soviet countries, will take place in the near future.