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The anniversary of Soviet withdrawal from Hungary

June 20th, 2018

A legal expert who took part in the negotiations on the withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from Hungary recounts hitherto unknown details of the talks and complains that the general public is unaware of the importance of the date when Hungary regained her independence.

In Magyar Hírlap, Izabella Bencze suspects that the only ones who still cherish the memory of June 19, 1991 when the last Soviet soldier left Hungary are those who participated in the long drawn-out negotiations on the withdrawal. She was on the Hungarian team that conducted the negotiations with the Soviet generals and experts who demanded substantial compensation for the infrastructure they were leaving behind. Their 100 thousand troops were stationed in 90 garrisons, 328 buildings and 50 military bases. In the most hair-raising episode, they even claimed that the Soviet Union had become the owner of its bases and wanted east Hungarian territories in exchange. In fact, Hungary was the only east European country that refused to pay compensation for the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. The negotiations therefore even continued after the withdrawal and were only completed a year later. When President Yeltsin arrived in Budapest from London (after meeting PM Margaret Thatcher), he was unable to leave the plane for hours. He wasn’t ill, Bencze euphemistically remarks. When Yeltsin then refused to sign the deal without some compensation, PM Antall of Hungary offered a few million forints worth of symbolic pharmaceutical aid to Russia.

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