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Hungary opts out of EU’s training mission for Ukrainian soldiers

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Budapest, Hungary – Hungary’s government said it would not take part in a new EU mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian military personnel in various member states.

EU to train thousands of Ukrainian soldiers

On Monday, the EU’s foreign ministers agreed to set up “the EU Military Assistance Mission [to] train the Ukrainian Armed Forces so they can continue their courageous fight,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The aim of the mission is to contribute to enhancing the military capability of Ukraine’s Armed Forces to effectively conduct military operations, in order to allow Ukraine to defend its territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, effectively exercise its sovereignty and protect civilians,” the Council of the EU said in a press release.

Headquartered in Brussels and under the command of French naval officer Vice Adm. Herve Blejean, the mission has been given an initial mandate of two years and a budget of about €106 million.

The operation could be up-and-running by mid-November, according to EU sources. About 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers are expected to be trained during the first phase of the program, mainly in Poland and Germany.

Several EU and NATO member states, including the UK, are already training Ukrainian soldiers and military personnel on their territory on a bilateral basis.

“Constructive abstention”

More details of the new deal have yet to be revealed, but at least two Central European countries – Hungary and Austria – are expected not to take part.

“Hungary was the only one not to vote on this proposal. It used the option of constructive abstention,” Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said. “We don’t participate in this training mission, we don’t send trainers, we don’t contribute to the costs of the operation.”

“Anything leading to escalation or Western or Central Europe being dragged into the war is not something we consider a good idea,” Szijjártó told reporters.

The Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, under fire for his close ties with the Kremlin despite Moscow’s invasion, has for months criticised EU sanctions against Russia.

Echoing the Russian government’s rhetoric, Budapest claims that Western military support for Kyiv only escalates and prolongs the conflict and keeps belligerents from reaching a negotiated peaceful solution to end the war.

The EU agreement came as Russia launched on Monday a new wave of attacks using dozens of Iranian-made “kamikaze drones” dive-bombing the capital Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, leaving at least eight people dead.