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Ukrainian POWs faced conditional release from Hungary

by Sonya Bandouil March 28, 2024 5:30 AM 2 min read
The colors of the Hungarian flag are illuminated on the Parliament Building in Budapest to mark Hungary's National Day on August 20, 2023. (Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Two Ukrainian prisoners of war, part of a group of 11 handed over to Hungary by Russia in June 2023, said in an interview to Deutsche Welle, that Hungarian representatives imposed conditions preventing their return to Ukraine until the war's end.

The 11 soldiers were previously held captive in Russia for an undisclosed duration, and the transfer occurred without prior notification to Ukraine. Both Russia and Hungary denied direct state involvement, attributing the operation to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta.

Hungarian representatives involved in the transfer claimed that their reason for preventing the return of the Ukrainian soldiers was because of their alleged ethnic ties to Hungary.

Despite most of the soldiers not even being ethnically Hungarian, they were pressured to claim Hungarian identity to secure a return, the soldiers told Deutsche Welle. Upon arrival in Budapest, they were confined to a hotel and warned against roaming until obtaining refugee status.

Eventually, with the assistance of Hungary’s Ukrainian Embassy, five soldiers acquired documents and returned to Ukraine some time in summer 2023. The location of the other six soldiers remains unclear, but Ukrainian officials said they are trying to organize their return.

Media: Hungarian FM says ending Russia-Ukraine war in Hungary’s fundamental interest
Ending the Russia-Ukraine war as soon as possible and initiating peace talks is in Hungary’s fundamental interest because the war “brings the nightmare of a third world war closer” each day, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on March 24.

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