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Hungary must explain its involvement in the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) from Russian custody and communicate with the Ukrainian government on this issue, European Commission foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano said on June 19 to Lithuanian media outlet Delfi.
"Russia must comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that prisoners of war are treated humanely in all circumstances in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and not put their lives in danger," Stano said.
On June 8, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it handed over a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war of "Zakarpattia origin" (referring to Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast where most Hungarians live) to Hungary at the request of Budapest, without involving Ukraine's authorities.
On June 19, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry demanded immediate consular access to the 11 POWs held in Hungary in isolation. According to the Ministry, the POWs are kept in isolation, have no access to open sources of information, and can communicate with their relatives only in the presence of "third parties."
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén confirmed the plan on June 9, claiming they are already in Hungary as "free people."
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry and intelligence services said they were not aware of the POWs' whereabouts and that Kyiv was not involved, while RFE/RL reported on June 15 that high-ranking members of the Hungarian government were not aware of the plan to send Ukrainian POWs from Russia to Hungary.
Diplomatic relations between Budapest and Kyiv have been historically tense due to the issue of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine. Zakarpattia, Ukraine's westernmost Oblast, is home to roughly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians.
Ties between the countries have deteriorated even more since the start of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war, as Budapest blocked sanctions against Russia and financial support packages for Ukraine.