Hungary receives Ukrainian POWs from Russia, Ukraine says not informed

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Hungary said on Friday it had received a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia, a release that Ukraine welcomed while expressing concern that it had not been informed.

The POWs were from the western part of Ukraine that borders Hungary, according to both the Russian Orthodox Church, which said it had assisted in the release, and Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen.


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“This is my human and patriotic duty”.. we have brought back from Moscow 11 prisoners of war from Transcarpathia,” a post on Semjen’s official Facebook page said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has long supported the Russian Orthodox Church in Hungary, and blocked proposals from other EU members for sanctions against the Church’s overall leader Patriarch Kirill.

A statement posted on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate late on Thursday said that “at the request of the Hungarian side, a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war of Transcarpathian origin who participated in the hostilities was transferred to Hungary.”

Asked for comment early on Friday, a Hungarian government spokesman told Reuters the statement was “fake news.” Later on the spokesman was not reachable for comment.

It was not clear what had caused the apparent confusion within the Hungarian government.

Ukraine, which has secured successive prisoner exchanges with Russia with international mediation during Russia’s more than 15-month-old invasion, said it had not been informed about the prisoners’ release. The foreign ministry said it had asked Hungary’s representative in Ukraine to grant immediate access to them.

“The release of Ukrainian prisoners of war is always good news,” foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook, adding that the ministry had “emphasized the need to coordinate cooperation on such sensitive issues.”

Hungary has not joined fellow EU and NATO members in giving military assistance to Ukraine and has repeatedly criticized EU sanctions against Russia, but eventually supported all the agreed measures so far.

Hungary and Ukraine have been in a long-standing dispute over the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine. But at the same time, Hungary has helped hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the country.

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