Kyiv accused Hungary on Monday of denying access to 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war who Russia handed over to the EU member countrywhich has maintained ties to the Kremlin during the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian Orthodox Church claimed earlier this month that a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Transcarpathia, a region inhabited by an ethnic Hungarian minority, had been transferred to Budapest.
Some 100,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Transcarpathia, in western Ukraine.
On Monday, Kyiv reported that Ukrainian officials have been unable to gain access to the returned detainees.
“All attempts by Ukrainian diplomats over the past few days to establish direct contact with Ukrainian citizens have been unsuccessful,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a Facebook statement.
“In essence, they are being kept in isolation,” he added.
Nikolenko added that they communicate with their relatives in the presence of third parties and are denied contact with the Ukrainian embassy.
He accused Hungary of “ignoring” Kyiv’s attempts to establish a dialogue.
Nikolenko had previously said that Kyiv had not been informed about the negotiations between Hungary and Russia.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, said on Monday that Budapest had informed the Ukrainian authorities about the transfer after the arrival of the eleven soldiers in Hungary.
“They are not considered prisoners of war in the legal sense, as they were released in Russia, after which the Orthodox Church in cooperation with the Maltese (Hungarian) Charity Service transferred them to Hungary,” Gulyás told a news conference in Budapest.
“This is in line with both international law and practice,” Gulyás said.
“Naturally, it was a special situation as they came here of their own free will,” he added. “They can also freely leave the country at any time of their own free will, we don’t control or monitor them, they are completely free.”
He said that those in the group who did not have Hungarian citizenship had received refugee status.
Due to a longstanding dispute with Kyiv over the rights of minorities in the Transcarpathian region, Budapest has also vowed to hinder Kyiv’s efforts to join the EU and NATO.
(With information from AFP)
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