Hungary Accuses Ukraine of Election Meddling as Europe’s Anti-Putin Coalition Pushes for Tougher Russia Response

by | Mar 31, 2022

Hungary Accuses Ukraine of Election Meddling as Europe’s Anti-Putin Coalition Pushes for Tougher Russia Response

by | Mar 31, 2022

Hungary has accused Ukraine of attempting to interfere in its upcoming election, claiming the government is working with local leftists to sway the race in favor of opposition parties. Kiev denied the charge, though has condemned Budapest for not taking a harder line against the Russian invasion. 

In a social media post on Wednesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said there is “ongoing coordination” between left-wing parties and Ukrainian officials, adding that opposition figures plan to throw more support to Kiev should they win the April 3 election. He provided no evidence to back the assertion, but claimed the meddling was discussed in an intercepted call between Ukrainian diplomats. 

“The Hungarian left made a promise that if they were in government, they would immediately decide on the transfer of armaments to Ukraine and immediately vote in favor of sanctions on oil and gas shipments to Europe and Hungary,” the FM said.

Kiev’s own Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later responded to his counterpart in an interview with Evropeiska Pravda, saying that “in contrast to the behavior of Hungary in Ukraine, we have never interfered in Hungary’s internal affairs and especially not ahead of an election.”

“It is a pity to see how, for the sake of a short-term pre-election advantage, minister Szijjarto is prepared to think up nonsense and destroy our relationship with him, which we had spent so long building,” Kuleba added.

Szijjarto’s comments came soon after a Hungarian newspaper claimed that “contacts” had been made between the Ukrainian government and opposition candidate Peter Marki-Zay, citing unnamed “security sources.” The FM had previously accused the left-leaning politician of conspiring with Kiev to swing the election in exchange for wartime support.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Hungary also denied the press report, stating that it “has not interfered and will not interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs” while accusing the pro-government newspaper of pushing “anti-Ukrainian hysteria.” 

Since Moscow launched its attack in late February, Hungarian opposition leaders have blasted Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his close ties with Vladmir Putin, with a senior figure in the liberal Movement Party, Anna Orosz, stating the Russian president is “Orban’s handler.” 

One of Russia’s closest partners in Eastern Europe, Hungary has so far been hesitant to join a Western sanctions campaign in response to the invasion – though it has backed some punitive measures through the EU. While Orban has been critical of the military operation, his government has been vocally opposed to arms shipments to Kiev, a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as well as major sanctions on Russian energy due to fears they will affect Hungary’s own gas and oil supplies. 

Despite criticism over his unwillingness to take a more full-throated stance against Russia, Orban is currently leading in the polls, largely running on a platform of non-interference in the war in Ukraine. He is seeking a fourth term as premier.

While that stance appears to have some support at home, it has earned Hungary the ire of several European colleagues. Earlier this week, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic canceled meetings in Budapest set for Wednesday, after Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova declared that “cheap Russian oil is more important to Hungarian politicians than Ukrainian blood.”

About Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com and news editor of the Libertarian Institute. Will Porter is the assistant news editor of the Libertarian Institute and a staff writer and editor at RT. Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter host Conflicts of Interest along with Connor Freeman.

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