Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reiterated that his government would do everything to stay out of the war in Ukraine and would therefore not send any weapons or military equipment to its eastern neighbour.
Hungary declines providing weapons to Ukraine
In an interview on Sunday, Orban said that “the most important thing is the security of the Hungarian people” and that his government would not send arms to Ukraine in order not to be dragged into the conflict. “With those weapons, they could shoot at Hungarians living in Transcarpathia”, he argued, referring to the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine’s western border region.
Last week, Ukraine’s ambassador in Budapest Nepop Liubov had appealed to the Hungarian government to send military equipment to help Ukrainians fight off Russia’s invasion.
“We understand that every country has different possibilities, and we hope that Hungary will find the possibility to provide this kind of help,” Liubov told local media.
“We say here the same thing we say to all our partners: we don’t expect anyone to fight for us, but with the right weapons, it will be easier to resist. And it is much more pragmatic to help defend Ukraine now than to put yourself in a situation where you will have to defend yourself later.”
Russia’s decision to launch a large-scale invasion of Ukraine last Thursday has pushed Orban, a close Putin ally, against the wall. In the direct aftermath of the Russian attack, the government shied away from calling the Russian incursion an invasion, instead referring to “a military operation in Ukraine”, echoing the rhetoric used by the Kremlin.
The official condemnation of the conflict came from President János Áder during a meeting of the Bucharest Nine countries in Warsaw on Friday. “We firmly condemn the Russian attack, which is more than bad, it is tragic,” Hungary’s head of state declared.
Humanitarian help for refugees
Mounting international outrage and pressure from European partners – particularly from the Polish government – eventually succeeded in bringing Hungary on board to support unprecedented EU sanctions against Russia, including its exclusion from SWIFT, which Budapest had initially opposed.
But PM Orban, who is facing reelection in April, and governments officials have repeated again and again that the government’s priority was to stay out of this conflict and that sending weapons runs counter to that objective.
The Hungarian government nevertheless pledged to offer support and protection to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and finding refuge across the border. According to police figures released yesterday, more than 70,000 refugees have fled to Hungary since Thursday.
Last Friday, a government decree exempted anyone arriving from Ukraine from the country’s strict asylum laws to grant them temporary protection. “Everyone fleeing Ukraine will find a friend in the Hungarian state,” Orban said on Sunday.
For more on the topic, listen to our latest podcast episode on Hungarian foreign policy and Budapest’s reaction to the war in Ukraine.