Government condemns Russia, opposition turns to OSCE over false media coverage, Hungarians welcome refugees, Hungary supports Ukraine's EU accession

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Government condemns Russian invasion

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán condemned Russia’s war waged against Ukraine, in a video posted on his Facebook page last Thursday.

"We condemn Russia's military action with our European Union and NATO allies," Orbán said in a video posted on his Instagram and Facebook pages following a meeting of the National Security cabinet.

The Hungarian prime minister spoke for the first time after Russia launched an invasion in Ukraine early Thursday morning.

Orbán also participated last week in the EU’s emergency meeting in Brussels.

The Hungarian chief of government also said that the Hungarian military forces were making preparations for the arrival of Hungarian minorities living in Ukraine as refugees: “Our military and designated police units have begun work on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Kiev decided to sever diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia crossed Ukrainian borders and launched military operations in Donbass.

Earlier Thursday last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized what he euphemistically called "special military operation," and Ukraine confirmed that military installations across the country were under attack.

The Ukrainian President declared martial law in the country following Russia's aggression. In a week, several hundred thousands of refugees left Ukraine, mostly through Poland, but also through Hungary.

Orbán made a statement on Wednesday, following a meeting of his Cabinet: “We reaffirmed Hungary’s continued resolve to send neither troops nor weapons to Ukraine. We reaffirmed that, in addition to this, no weapons will be allowed to pass through Hungary’s territory towards Ukraine. Our primary consideration is the lives and security of the Hungarian people, including Hungarians living in Transcarpathia.”

“We cannot and shall not take any decisions that would lead others to target either settlements or people in Hungary, or Hungarians – and Ukrainians – living in Transcarpathia. It is of paramount importance for Hungary to stay out of this war. At the same time, Ukraine is our friend; they are in distress, and those in distress must be helped,” the statement added.

“We have launched one of the largest humanitarian operations in Hungary’s history. As a first step, we are sending 600 million forints’ worth of food, hygiene supplies and childcare products,” the statement concluded

Opposition turns to OSCE over false media coverage

“Hungarian united opposition parties find it unacceptable that the state and the pro-government media, which are publicly funded, play a role in spreading Putin’s war propaganda,” opposition parties wrote in their statement.

“That is why the members of the opposition federation turn to the OSCE mission in Hungary,” the statement added.

“It is literally impossible to watch how reality is distorted in the state media about the Russian aggression, also, the Hungarian opposition parties’ positions are taken out of their context, completely changing their original meaning. This practice is reprehensible and particularly irresponsible, given that the European Union is already penalizing Russian media companies that spread Putin's war propaganda,” they underlined.

On Saturday, Prime Minister-candidate Péter Márki-Zay also demanded that "the broadcasting of Russian propaganda in the Hungarian public media be suspended with immediate effect". On the same issue, Péter Ungár from green opposition party LMP turned to the national media council.

444 has already reported about the false news inundating public media, for instance, the Ukrainian president was sometimes portrayed as Adolf Hitler, whereas the Russian aggressors were shown as a calm force, and the Ukrainians were associated with the threat of World War III.

But the “blame the victim” attitude against Ukraine is overwhelming not only in the official media, but also in the pro-government social media.

When many people in Ukraine, which is neighboring Hungary, are still losing their lives to protect their homes, it would be extremely important to provide accurate information and fair presentation of political discourse, according to the opposition.

In the current war situation, the strict minimum is that the state media, which is maintained for more than HUF 130 billion of taxpayers money, should meet these basic requirements, the opposition parties stressed.

Hungarians welcome refugees from Ukraine

Villages close to the Ukrainian border united their efforts to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Hungary.

Volunteers are present at every border station, and have set up reception points, where they welcome people from Ukraine with hot beverages, food, and also organize free transportation for them to other parts of Hungary.

In the first wave, the big majority of people from Ukraine belonged to the Hungarian ethnic minority of Transcarpathia, and spoke Hungarian, so there was no need to provide interpreters, and most people had where to go.

Humanitarian organizations are also ready to give legal counsel to the few that would want to apply for asylum in Hungary. But currently, there is little need for that. A situation that might change in the future.

The majority of the Ukrainians were taken to relatives or friends at the border station, but small and mid-sized vans were carrying those who were on their own to neighboring villages’ cultural centers or sports halls, which were turned into a temporary shelter.

Most of the refugees are reluctant to speak to the press, let alone give their names. Sometimes older couples pass through the border with their daughters and grandchildren, but mostly it’s just young women with children.

A young mother of three refused to leave the welcome point at the border without her husband, who came earlier to Hungary, in order to avoid military service in Ukraine, where the government forbade males aged 18-60 to leave the country.

She was later reunited with him at the village shelter some 10 kilometers from the border.

Local volunteer drivers said they started transporting people from the border station to the shelter as soon as the war broke out.

On Wednesday, the government said it has set up a humanitarian council to make the work of government actors and large charities even more coordinated and organized to help refugees in Ukraine, a government spokesman said at a news conference.

According to Alexandra Szentkirályi, the council formed under the leadership of Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, includes representatives of public education, higher education, social and child protection, health care, regional administration, labor, national politics, Hungary Helps and transport.

Alexandra Szentkirályi said that since February 24, almost 104,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Hungary, more than 1,300 of whom have been resettled with the support of the Hungarian State.

More than HUF 200 million has been offered via a donation line so far, she added.

According to her, state-owned companies were also helping, those arriving from Ukraine can travel for free on MÁV-Start lines, and Volánbusz provides buses to transport refugees at four border locations and at Budapest's main railway stations.

The government spokeswoman recalled that the delegation led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó had transported 30 tons of food and 100,000 liters of fuel to Transcarpathia on Sunday, and on Monday they decided that food, baby care and hygiene products worth HUF 600 million would also be sent.

On Thursday, Gulyás said before journalists that Hungary and the V4 do not support the EU Commission’s proposal to grant immediate refugee of war protection in the EU for those fleeing the war in Ukraine, that would grant the refugees a residence permit and an immediate access to the labor market.

Gulyás insisted that a general refugee status was given by Hungary and that this status was recognized throughout Europe

Hungary supports swift EU accession of Ukraine

Hungary supports Ukraine's accelerated EU accession, supports the request made by eight EU member states on Monday to include Ukraine as a candidate for membership of the European Union and begin preparations for membership, Foreign Minister Szijjártó said Tuesday.

"We urge the Brussels institutions to put this request of the eight presidents on the agenda, which Hungary also supports,” Szijjarto informed in a video posted on his Facebook page.  “We expect Brussels to take this initiative seriously,” he also said.

On Monday, eight Eastern and Central European countries said they would support Ukraine's immediate accession to the EU in a joint declaration.

“Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Poland, the Slovak Republic, and the Republic of Slovenia strongly believe that Ukraine deserves receiving an immediate EU accession perspective,” the declaration said.

Romania also joined the initiative on Tuesday.

The joint declaration was published after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he had signed an application to join the EU, prompting Ukraine to become a member of the EU.

But EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen does not have the power to bestow the formal status of membership candidates, let alone grant EU membership to any country.

Decisions as such have to be agreed by all of the bloc's 27 member countries, who have shown divergent views recently on the issue of EU enlargement.

Asked about Kyiv’s membership prospects, European Council President Charles Michel admitted that there were “different opinions and sensitivities within the EU on enlargement.”

In spite of these differences, some Central European capitals are pushing for a signal that Kyiv has at least a path to membership, even if the accession process usually takes many years as would-be members work to align their societies, legal systems and economies with EU norms.

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