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Weeklies on the fallout of the war in Ukraine

June 20th, 2022

Commentators try to make sense of the changes the war is triggering in Hungary’s international standing, in attitudes towards Russian culture as well as in Hungary’s national economy.

Heti Világgazdaság carries an interview with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Mr Kuleba thanks Hungary for the humanitarian support it is giving to Ukraine, to its inhabitants and to refugees, but resents the refusal of the Hungarian government to agree to sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a vocal supporter of the Russian invasion. He finds a remark by Parliament Speaker László Kövér about President Zelensky unacceptable. (The Speaker said it was unusual for someone asking for help to attack potential helpers and suspected ‘psychic problems’ behind the behaviour of the Ukrainian president.) Kuleba also advises Hungary to choose the winning, rather than the losing side in the war – predicting that Ukraine is bound to be the ultimate winner.

In Élet és Irodalom, political scientist Miklós Mitrovits finds Hungary’s support for Ukraine half-hearted. Hungary, he writes, has not made real sacrifices in this war. Letting in or rather letting through hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees didn’t represent a serious financial burden on the Hungarian economy, he continues. Sending natural gas to Ukraine, on the other hand, was even profitable, although he admits it was indeed vital for Ukraine. All in all, he sees Hungary’s attitude as ‘interest-based’ and worries that the result will be a higher degree of international isolation.

On the next page in the same liberal weekly, Eszter Balázs agrees with the decision of Budapest’s open-air theatre on Margaret Island to cancel a piano concert by Russian American pianist Valentina Lisitsa. She describes the international controversy on whether or not Russian artists should be banned from European stages and concludes that sanctions against those who openly support Putin’s aggression, as Ms Lisistsa has, are justified. Meanwhile, she believes the best decision for Hungarian venues is to only invite Ukrainian artists.

In a similar vein in Magyar Narancs, another liberal magazine, Diána Vonnák devotes a long essay to prove that anti-Ukrainian sentiments are pervasive throughout Russian literature, including the works of the great classics. She quotes multiple Ukrainian experts who speak out against performing works by Russian authors on European stages. In her concluding remark, she writes that ’unfortunately, literature is never innocent’.

In an unsigned editorial, 168óra dismisses the claim that the government’s economic difficulties are caused by the war in Ukraine, and therefore the argument that inflation, for instance, will be over once the war ends. The left-wing weekly retorts that Hungary’s national currency has been weakening for the past few years against those of other countries of the region, including the Polish Zloty. The authors write that leaders should be clear about the real causes of the problem, if they want to be successful in solving it.

In his regular weekly editorial on Jelen, Zoltán Lakner also rejects the idea that inflation and other difficulties are all caused by the pandemic, the war and the sanctions on Russia. He wishes the opposition were as smart in exploiting the government’s difficulties in managing the economic crisis as Viktor Orbán was in the mid-2000s, when he built a consistent campaign on people’s desire for a better life.

Quoting multiple experts in a long article in Mandiner, Dániel Kacsoh cautions against plans to impose a ban on the import of Russian gas. This would represent an unprecedented blow not only to the Hungarian economy, he suggests, but would also plunge Germany into a crisis the like of which has not been seen since 1945. Meanwhile, he believes, such a ban would benefit the United States, whose expensive liquefied shale gas, brought to the surface through an environmentally harmful technology, could thus find markets overseas.

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