The Hungarian government has announced that it will not expel diplomats in the wake of allegations made by the Czech Republic that Russian intelligence was involved in exploding a Czech munitions depot in 2014, making it the only Visegrád Four country not do so.
Earlier this week, on Monday, the V4 group — Hungary, Poland, Czechia, and Hungary — approved an official statement which condemned acts of aggression allegedly carried out on European soil by Russia. However, Hungary rejected a harsher version of the statement, and announced that it would not be expelling any Russian diplomats, despite calls by the Czech and Polish governments to do so, Insight Hungary 444 reports.
The initial version of the joint statement, which was drafted by Poland, is said to have been more severe, calling for the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and voicing strong support for Ukraine and Belarus. As a result of the Hungarian position, the final V4 declaration of solidarity was shortened.
“Together with the prime minister of Czechia we strongly condemn illegal and violent actions carried out by the Russian intelligence operatives. We will not allow these activities to divide Europe. Visegrád Group countries are determined to take measures together with fellow member states of the European Union to reinforce our resilience,” the V4 prime ministers stated.
Days ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took to Facebook to reaffirm where his country stands on the issue, saying: “V4 discussion: we stand in solidarity with the Czech Republic.”
On Wednesday, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, told reporters that Hungary had not only expressed its solidarity with the Czech Republic not only through the V4’s joint statement, but by also assisting the country temporarily oversee its consulate in Yekaterinburg.
“So there can be no question of any kind about our solidarity,” Szijjártó said, adding that Hungary hasn’t planned to take an additional steps with regard to its own diplomatic relations with Russia.
Last week, following an earlier move made by Poland, which saw three Russian diplomats expelled for “hostile actions”, the Czech government announced the expulsion of another 63 individuals from Russia’s embassy, in addition to the 18 Russian diplomats — identified as Russian intelligence operatives — that Czechia expelled previously over alleged links to the ammunition depot explosion.
In solidarity with the Czech Republic, the countries of Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have all asked several Russian diplomats to leave their territory.
Russia has responded in a tit-for-tat move by expelling diplomats from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and the Baltic countries, claiming Slovakia’s decision was a form of “false solidarity” which damaged the “traditionally friendly Russian-Slovak relations and constructive bilateral cooperation.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also slammed the Baltic countries, which it says “continue to conduct an openly hostile course towards our country, in this case hiding behind pseudo-solidarity with the indiscriminate actions of the Czech Republic towards Russia.”
For a long time now, political orientations towards Russia have been one of the primary points of contention among not just Central and Eastern European governments, but also among right-wing parties across Europe. At present, it’s unclear how the Hungarian government’s response to the diplomatic row will affect its relationship with fellow Visegrád Four member states.
Title image: Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto, right, listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, during their talks in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)