Ukraine/Hungary – A new issue has come to poison the already complicated relations between Ukraine and Hungary.
While the vast majority of European countries have sided with Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, Hungary – whose tensions with Ukraine, particularly in relation to the Hungarian minority in Subcarpathia, are not new – keeps insisting that the war must be stopped and refuses any military assistance to Kyiv. Additionally, Hungary is one of the few European countries which has received an exception to the EU’s embargo against Russia and is authorized to buy Russian oil via the Druzhba pipeline which passes through Ukraine, as the EU embargo only covers Russian oil transported by sea.
In this already heated context, the Washington Post reported on May 13 that documents leaked from US intelligence “reveal a leader with aggressive instincts that sharply contrast with his public-facing image as the calm and stoic statesman weathering Russia’s brutal onslaught”. According to the newspaper, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly considered conducting “strikes in Russia”, notably on Rostov, and even occupying “unspecified Russian border cities”, thus moving from a defensive war to taking the offensive against Russia. The Washington Post further said that it had been suggested in Kyiv that
“Ukraine ‘blow up’ the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline that provides oil to Hungary”.
According to the Washington Post, Zelensky said that
“Ukraine should just blow up the pipeline and destroy likely Hungarian [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s industry, which is based heavily on Russian oil.”
While Kyiv officially denies the remarks attributed to Zelensky and has called them “fantasies”, the Hungarian State Secretary for International Communication, Zoltán Kovács, reacted by asking on Twitter:
“How is it possible that Ukraine is plotting against a NATO country?”
On top of this, the conservative Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet reported on May 17 that the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had suggested to the Ukrainians that they shut off the Hungarians’ Russian oil tap in response to the latter’s position on the sale of Ukrainian grain:
“If this is the attitude of the Hungarians, they [the Ukrainians] should feel free to stop oil deliveries to Hungary via the Druzhba pipeline.”
This was however denied by the President in a response to questions sent by Telex, one of the major anti-government media outlets in Hungary.