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11 Transcarpathian POWs transferred from Russia to Hungary

June 17th, 2023

The transfer is reported to be the result of a ‘private deal’ between the Russian Orthodox Church and Hungary’s Christian Democrat Deputy Prime Minister.

On 8 June, Index reported that 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war, all ethnic Hungarians from Transcarpathia in western Ukraine, had been transferred to Hungary with the mediation of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry urged Hungary to explain why the Ukrainian side had not been informed as required under the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war. Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén then said the eleven Transcarpathians were not prisoners of war anymore because they had been released by Russia.

On the Radio Free Europe Hungary website, András Kósa reports that surprising as it may seem, the government was not informed about the deal. He mentions two key cabinet ministers, Gergely Gulyás, in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Foreign Minister Péter Szíjjártó who appeared to have been left completely in the dark. He also quotes unnamed sources who claim that there was consternation within the government over the matter. The unnamed sources told Radio Free Europe that the initiative of Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was transmitted by his Budapest representative to Miklós Soltész, the Christian Democrat state secretary for religious affairs, who passed it on to Mr Semjén. Kósa tends to believe this version and argues that had the government and the Foreign Ministry been abreast of the matter, they would surely have informed Ukraine in order to avoid a diplomatic scandal that could ‘do further harm to Hungary’s image within NATO’. Kósa ends his report by mentioning that his sources knew nothing of the whereabouts of the eleven former prisoners of war.

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