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Hungarian foreign minister confirms Poroshenko planned to meet Orban

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 4, 2023 3:27 PM 3 min read
Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto attends the 10th Summit of the Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States on Nov. 3, 2023. (Arda Kucukkaya/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reportedly confirmed on Dec. 4 that Ukraine's former President Petro Poroshenko planned to meet Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) presented as justification for barring Poroshenko from leaving the country.

Orban is broadly regarded as the most Kremlin-friendly EU leader, and his country has repeatedly obstructed aid for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

The SBU said on Dec. 2 that it had asked the parliament to cancel Poroshenko's request to leave Ukraine, explaining that Russian intelligence services planned to leverage the meeting for propaganda purposes.

Due to martial law, Ukrainian men aged 18-60 are forbidden from leaving the country, barring special circumstances or official permission.

Szijjarto claimed that the planned meeting was initiated by Poroshenko and noted that Orban is happy to negotiate with anybody, including foreign ex-leaders.

"So if ex-President Poroshenko was considering such an opportunity, we didn't want to stand in the way of that," Szijjarto said during a hearing at the Hungarian parliament.

Poroshenko said on Dec. 1 that border guards prevented him from leaving the country even though he had previously received official permission.

Oleksandr Korniienko, deputy speaker of Ukraine's parliament, released a video later in the day saying that Poroshenko had a legitimate reason to be initially granted permission to leave the country but that he had received a letter marked "for official use," which caused him to retract the approval.

Korniienko said that he could not disclose what the letter said. It is unclear if the letter Korniienko referred to contained the request from the SBU.

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Poroshenko claimed that the cancellation was for political reasons and hinted that the decision came from high up.

The former president and the opposition European Solidarity party leader said his reason for traveling outside Ukraine was to go to Poland and help negotiate an end to the ongoing blockade by Polish truckers and then to the U.S. to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Zoltan Kovacs, the Hungarian government spokesperson, said in a response to the SBU's statement on Dec. 2 that "Hungary does not wish to play any part in President (Volodymyr) Zelensky's internal political struggle."

Kovacs branded the incident as an "indication that Ukraine is not yet ready for European Union membership." Budapest has repeatedly warned that it would not support the launch of Kyiv's membership talks during an upcoming EU summit in December.

Poroshenko, who was elected president in 2014, lost his reelection bid in 2019 to Zelensky in a bitter campaign that often included personal attacks.

The ex-president was previously blocked from leaving Ukraine in May 2022 for a NATO summit but was eventually allowed to exit the country on his third try.

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