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Hungarian president arrives in Zakarpattia Oblast

by Martin Fornusek August 22, 2023 3:44 PM 2 min read
Zakarpattia Oblast Governor Viktor Mykyta (L) welcomes Hungarian President Katalin Novak in Zakarpattia, Ukraine, Aug. 22, 2023. (Source: Zakarpattia Oblast Military Administration)
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Hungarian President Katalin Novak has arrived in Ukraine's westernmost Zakarpattia Oblast, meeting local officials and leaders of the local Hungarian ethnic community, the Hungarian news portal Telex reported on Aug. 22.

The visit comes ahead of the third Crimean Platform summit in Kyiv, where Novak has been invited to participate by her Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

"The head of the neighboring country met with the leadership of Zakarpattia Oblast, the oblast council, (the city of) Berehove, and the district," the Zakarpattia Oblast Military Administration reported.

"Together, they discussed the results and the prospects of strengthening cross-border cooperation, including the projects launched during the full-scale Russian invasion."

According to Telex, Novak's itinerary includes meeting Zakarpattia Oblast Governor Viktor Mykyta, political, religious, and education leaders of the local Hungarian community, and families of ethnic Hungarians who died while serving in the Ukrainian military.

The Hungarian president previously visited Ukraine in November 2022 to participate in the meeting of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Hungary has been at odds with Ukraine and the West over its amicable stance towards Russia even amid the full-scale war. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban proclaimed that Ukraine is a financially "non-existent" and "no longer sovereign" state due to its "dependence" on international support.

Using its membership in Western political structures, Budapest has repeatedly obstructed aid for Ukraine, as well as sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast plays a major role in the strained relationship between the two countries. The region, bordering Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, is home to around 150,000 ethnic Hungarians, of which roughly 400 serve in the Ukrainian military.

Budapest has accused Kyiv of alleged discrimination against ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia Oblast. Ukrainian officials rebuked the concerns, saying that Hungarian and Romanian communities in Zakarpattia have the full support of the local government.

In the most recent scandal between the two nations, Hungarian officials cooperated with the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church on the transfer of 11 Ukrainian prisoners of war of Hungarian ethnic background to Hungary without Kyiv's involvement.

While some of the POWs have already been retrieved by Ukraine, Ukrainian military intelligence warned that another such transfer is being prepared by Hungary and Russia.

Exclusive: New insights point to Hungary’s collaboration with Moscow on transfer of Ukrainian POWs
In early June, a bizarre and mysterious joint operation was carried out between two of Ukraine’s neighbors, one to the east and one to the west. Eleven Ukrainian soldiers, after having been held in Russian captivity for an unknown amount of time, were moved from Russia to Hungary. Although
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