Ukrainian prisoners of war being held in Hungary but Orban denies involvement

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has stated that he thinks Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, ordered the transfer of eleven Ukrainian POWs from Russia to Hungary. According to Kuleba, a clandestine operation that was formally carried out by the Order of Malta and its representative office in Hungary, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church, landed the Ukrainian defenders in Hungarian territory.

Mr Kuleba said: “There was one simple goal: Viktor Orbán had to show Hungarians in Hungary and beyond that he is their only defender. This whole operation was implemented in the political interests of one person.”

He added: “The consul, the ambassador are not allowed to visit [the prisoners of war], despite our persistent demands.

“We are using all levers to gain access to our citizens and return them home.

“At the same time, we are in contact with their loved ones to provide maximum support at this difficult moment.”

According to reports from DW, Péter Szijártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, stated during a speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that the official Hungarian government was not involved in the transfer of 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia.

Szijártó attributed the transfer to discussions held between the church and religious organizations.

The Minister insisted: “The state of Hungary is absolutely not involved”.

He added that Ukrainians “are free to move in Hungary, they are free to do what they want to do. And if they want to get in touch with the Ukrainian authorities, they are free to do so, I can guarantee you that.”

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On June 9, the Russian Orthodox Church made an announcement stating that it had transferred a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war to Hungary.

However, Ukrainian intelligence claimed to have no knowledge of this transfer, and international organizations, including the Red Cross, had no information regarding it either.

Subsequently, Hungary confirmed the reception of 11 prisoners of war and characterized it as a “gesture of goodwill” facilitated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In response, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the temporary charge d’affaires of Hungary to seek explanations.

On June 16, Oleg Kotenko, the Commissioner for Missing Persons in Ukraine, disclosed that the whereabouts of the 11 prisoners of war had been determined. Shortly after, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine demanded access for a consul to visit the prisoners.

However, Budapest continued to disregard the rights and fundamental freedoms of the individuals involved, while ignoring attempts at constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian Embassy.

By June 19, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that, in collaboration with the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War and other relevant entities, they were actively pursuing measures to secure the return of the 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were taken from Russia by Hungary without the knowledge of the Ukrainian government or international human rights organizations.

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