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Tension between Hungary and Ukraine

October 15th, 2018

Pro-government sites claim that extreme right-wing Ukrainian organisations which publish the addresses of ethnic Hungarians denouncing them as traitors are being supported by the government in Kiev. A liberal weekly accuses the Hungarian government of playing into Moscow’s hands with its attitude towards Ukraine.

On 888, Dániel Bohár warns that the Ukrainian authorities are progressively cutting back the rights of the national minorities. Ukraine is waging an unsuccessful war against Russian separatists in the East of the country and the authorities tend to compensate the moral loss there by attacking the small, hundred thousand-strong Hungarian minority in the West, he claims. Public television broadcasts reports from the Transcarpathian region almost daily, to illustrate how poorly ethnic Hungarians there speak Ukrainian. So far, Bohár writes, such hate mongering has not had any effect on the good relations between Hungarians and Ukrainians locally, but he fears that ’the increasingly large drops of poison being administered might eventually prove fatal’.

Pesti Srácok suspects that the latest campaign against Hungarians in Ukraine must have been supported by official institutions. Earlier this autumn, a secretly recorded video was published on a nationalist site showing Ukrainian citizens taking the Hungarian citizenship oath at the Hungarian Consulate in Beregove. Dual citizenship is not permitted under the Ukrainian constitution, but only draws sanctions in the case of public officials. Still, the Consul was expelled, whereupon a Ukrainian Consul was expelled from Hungary in retaliation. The same extreme right-wing site, Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) then started publishing the names of ethnic Hungarians who had allegedly become Hungarian citizens as well. The site also published their addresses and passport numbers, and Pesti Srácok is convinced that such information could only originate from the authorities. In addition, the site’s founder is a deputy Cabinet Minister, while its manager is a former secret service official. Mirotvorets has by now published the names and addresses of 500 Hungarians whom they call traitors. On the site of the Ukrainian Parliament, an extremist organisation has begun collecting signatures under a petition demanding the expulsion of ethnic Hungarians from Ukraine.

In a lengthy analysis in Magyar Narancs, András Radnóti believes that Hungary should have withdrawn the Hungarian Consul to avoid further confrontation with Ukraine. He suspects however that the Hungarian government intends to increase the tension in an attempt to portray itself as the protector of fellow Hungarians. This is why, he believes, Hungary has vetoed the convocation of the NATO-Ukraine council for the sixth time since the Ukrainian Parliament approved an Education Act which bans the teaching of most subjects in minority languages after the first four years of elementary school. The law contains a clause under which exceptions can be made with the languages of EU member countries, and Radnóti thinks Hungary should have used that clause to circumvent the law, rather than demanding its withdrawal. He suspects that over and above serving its own political interests at home, the Hungarian government also serves the interests of Russia. Although, he writes, it would be in Hungary’s best interest to have a strong and democratic Ukrainian government in place in Kiev.

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