Szijjarto blasts Ukraine secret service raids on ethnic Hungarian institutions

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has slammed a series of raids by Ukrainian authorities on the premises of ethnic Hungarian institutions in the neighbouring country, calling it an "attack" on a minority community belonging to a NATO country.

“Ukraine, a country not a member of NATO, has launched an attack against a minority group originating from a NATO member country,” Szijjarto said in a video on Facebook after a conference call with his NATO counterparts. The minister called on the alliance’s member states to express their solidarity with Hungary.

Szijjarto said he had briefed his counterparts representing allied countries on recent developments concerning the ethnic Hungarian community in Ukraine.

The minister said that on Monday Ukraine’s secret service had “occupied” the headquarters of ethnic Hungarian cultural association KMKSZ, the home of its leader, Laszlo Brenzovics, the Ferenc Rakoczi II Hungarian College of Transcarpathia in Berehove (Beregszasz) and the offices of the organisation in charge of the Hungarian government’s economic development scheme geared towards the region.

He insisted that the raids served to intimidate the local Hungarian community, saying that “hatred against Hungarians continues to be incited at the central government level”.

“This is obviously a scandal and it is unacceptable in the 21st century,” he said. “Especially from a country claiming to want to draw closer to NATO.”

Szijjarto said he had asked his NATO counterparts to express their solidarity with Hungary and not to pressure the country to withdraw its veto of Ukraine’s talks towards joining the alliance.

The minister said he will also ask his EU counterparts for their support at a meeting scheduled in Brussels next Monday.

Szijjarto on Tuesday evening said the OSCE had dispatched a team of observers to monitor the situation in Ukraine. In a Facebook video, the minister said he had spoken by phone with acting Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj, who holds the organisation’s rotating presidency, asking him to send the OSCE observer team in Ukraine to Transcarpathia to investigate the offenses committed against the local Hungarian community. Szijjarto said the observers were looking into the situation and would reach out to representatives of the Transcarpathian Hungarian community.

On the topic of the western Balkans, Szijjarto said the EU should follow the example of NATO, which has granted membership to three countries in the region, “thereby significantly strengthening regional security”. Hungary will continue to support those western Balkan countries that are not yet members of either the EU or NATO, he added.

Hungary has increased its number of troops serving in KFOR, the international peacekeeping force operating under NATO in Kosovo to 407, he said, highlighting that the mission will have a Hungarian commander from next year.

Hungary will also keep contributing to NATO missions aimed at preventing a rise in the migration pressure on Europe, the foreign minister said, noting that the country has 67 troops stationed in Afghanistan and 135 in Iraq.

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