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Weeklies on the war in Ukraine

June 19th, 2023

Opposition-leaning and pro-government commentators offer sharply opposing views on the latest developments in the war.

Élet és Irodalom devotes three separate columns to the case of 11 Transcarpathian prisoners of war released by Russia and transferred to Hungary at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church (see Budapost, June 17). In his front-page editorial, István Váncsa describes the transfer of the ethnic Hungarian former prisoners of war as an ‘anti-Ukrainian provocation in criminal collusion with the Russians’. He adds that the implications are incalculable and that Hungary will pay a high price for it. In the same liberal weekly, writer Rudolf Ungváry believes that if Hungary failed to inform Ukraine about the handover of former prisoners of war, this means that the Hungarian government expects Russia to win the war. He goes so far as to suspect the Hungarian government of hoping to get some of the spoils of a Russian victory over Ukraine. Former Liberal MP Tamás Bauer accuses the government of conniving with Russia to humiliate Ukraine, although he welcomes the release of the 11 soldiers from captivity.

In Magyar Hang, Róbert Puzsér suggests that the POW deal as well as the medal of Glory and Honour Prime Minister Orbán received from Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church are expressions of the latter’s gratitude for the Prime Minister’s veto which prevented him from being put on the European list of sanctioned prominent pro-war personalities in Russia.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta is confident that the Ukrainians will ultimately liberate their whole country from Russian occupation. He believes Hungary will not be invited to the feast to celebrate the Ukrainian victory because of what he sees as the government’s pro-Russian attitude. He is certain that Russia cannot win the war in the long run. It is good at killing civilians and exploding dams but that will not enable it to defeat Ukraine.

In Magyar Narancs, István M. Szabó dismisses fears that after the destruction of the massive dam at the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant may be left without cooling water. Its own reservoir, he writes, will provide enough water for several months. Meanwhile, he warns that since the huge nuclear power station has been taken over by the Russians, the safety level inside the plant has sunk to dangerous levels. Inside the plant, he remarks, there are more soldiers than workers.

In Demokrata, Gábor Stier suspects that the Nova Kakhovka down was destroyed by the Ukrainian side. He admits he has no proof to corroborate his thesis, and also that in the short run, the flood caused by the destruction of the dam helps Russian troops withstand the ongoing Ukrainian offensive. Nevertheless, he argues, if the Russians had wanted to flood the vast areas now underwater in southern Ukraine, they could have simply opened the sluice gates instead of destroying the power station.

In a more general analysis of the war in an interview with Mandiner, philosopher András Lánczi interprets the conflict as a clash between the United States and Russia and puts it into the context of what he calls Washington’s refusal to accept that Russia and China are becoming stronger. He sees the war as ‘an internal matter of two brotherly nations’, complicated by America’s drive to extend its influence in Ukraine. Ukraine, he writes is the United States’ ‘test laboratory’. He rejects the idea that in connection with the war, all countries should side either with the West or with the East, as that would be the surest path to a world war. Instead, he suggests, all nations are well advised to decide on their own what best serves their national security.

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