Hungary prepared to accept Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian invasion

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, traditionally an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has finally condemned Moscow’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine. The Hungarian leader also announced that the country is ready to accept refugees from Ukraine immediately. The first Ukrainian citizens to seek refuge in Hungary crossed the border at Beregsurány and Záhony on 24 February. The average wait times at both crossings were over two hours this afternoon. Refugees were seen crossing the border into Hungary by foot, carrying just a suitcase. According to initial reports, Ukrainian border officials have not been checking to see whether or not those who have chosen to flee the country face the military draft under the terms of Ukraine’s martial law. Thus far, anyone who wants to leave has been allowed to cross the border into Hungary and a large number of those fleeing to Hungary seem to be young men. Hungarian officials have not turned people away either. It is believed that many of the first refugees are ethnic Hungarians from western Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region. The Hungarian government expects the wave of refugees seeking asylum in Hungary to reach well into the thousands.

File photo: the Záhony border crossing between Hungary and Ukraine and a Hungarian border guard. Source: MTI.

Mr. Orbán issued a terse condemnation of the Russian invasion Thursday afternoon. He added that Hungary would offer humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, but would not contribute any troops. “My priority is the safety of Hungarians,” he said. Mr. Orbán then suggested that the more bullish approach of the Hungarian democratic opposition, if implemented, would endanger Hungary’s gas and energy supply. In contrast to Mr. Orbán’s hesitant stance, opposition politicians are calling for more sweeping measures and are using more explicit language. Socialist politician Attila Mesterházy would support NATO stationing more troops and equipment in Hungary, even while he sees no chance of the western military alliance sending soldiers to Ukraine itself. Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány is calling for the Russian investment in the Paks power plant to be suspended and to reconsider plans to produce the Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine in Hungary.  Mr. Gyurcsány also issued a stark condemnation of the Hungarian prime minister for his longstanding alliance with the Russian dictator. “Russia is the aggressor. It has attacked an independent, sovereign state. There is a war in our neighbourhood. We must act. The Hungarian government, which has long pursued a peculiar Russian policy, different from the common European policy, should not now hide behind the skirts of Brussels. Speak clearly and condemn the aggressor!” — Mr. Gyurcsány demanded of the Orbán government.

Jobbik politician Péter Jakab also did not mince his words: “Orban is Putin’s Trojan horse — and now the greatest national security threat to our country.”

Earlier, as we reported in HFP, Hungarian democratic opposition’s leader, Péter Márky-Zay, labelled Mr. Orbán a traitor of the West for siding with the Russian dictator and failing to speak up against military action that claimed the lives of more than 100 Ukrainians in day one of the invasion.

Here in North America, Béla Lipták — a participant in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, leader of the Hungarian Lobby and once supportive of the Orbán government, but no longer so — shared a series of steps he feels Ukraine should take to defend itself against the aggressor. First, he suggested the Russians will likely aim to capture or kill Ukraine’s political and military leaders. As such, he suggests they request UN protection. Then , Mr. Lipták added that Ukrainians who participate in the resistance should use Molotov cocktails, as these are “the most effective weapons.” He also noted that Ukraine should shut down any nuclear plants, as Russian cyber attacks could turn them into de facto nuclear bombs.

The European Union as well must take a principled stance. In its public statements, it appears to be doing just that. But what’s happening behind the scenes? András Bozóki, a professor of Political Science at Central European University, offered a dose of reality in a Facebook post today: “European utilities are set to buy more Russian natural gas (from Gazprom) via Ukraine pipelines. Yes, you read that right: Europe will be buying more natural gas. From Russia. Via Ukraine. Tomorrow.”

Civic courage in the western world remains in short supply.


  1. Among the many tragedies is of course the differentiation made by the Hungarian government between Ukrainian refugees and Syrian/Middle Eastern refugees who also fled for their lives. O1G can speak from both sides of his mouth and play a game of “Appeasement/Condemnation, but not too much of either, please. Remember, we need the gas and the oil.”
    He can make side deals, but in the end, as Benjamin Franklin said (paraphrase), “If you make yourselves sheep, the wolves will eat you.”
    At what point does Putin-Revanchism take over or attempt to reclaim the non-Slavic parts of the former USSR and its lackey governments….? I have lots of questions and no answers because I am no expert, but I know for certain that Fidesz has no more clue as to the future of friends who are Hungarian living citizens who do not side with appeasement.

  2. Avatar Göllner András says:

    The 2022 Ukrainian crisis is not one in which the forces of evil have suddenly sprung out of their “natural” dark corner (Russia) to pounce upon an innocent nation that wants to stand on its own feet under the protective umbrella of the West. This fairy-tale is as useless, dangerous and false as the earlier ones concocted by the fortune-hunting leaders of the world in all corners of the world (e.g. “white men’s burden” as the cover for the rape of Africa, and the indigenous peoples of the world by Western “civilization”)

    Ukraine became as corrupt a country for most of the past 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Empire as every single one of the former Soviet Republics, with the help of American spin-doctors like Arthur J. Finkelstein, and with massive inflows of Western capital and EU acquiescence. Orbán’s 12 year autocracy would not have lasted a day, without the EU’s massive and prolonged financial support, the selfishness of German capital the umbrella provided for it by successive German governments, and the lobbying efforts of guys like the above mentioned Béla Lipták in America.

    Capital, and those who put the interest of capital before the interest of the people, have never been friendly to those who want to live in ecologically sustainable communal well being according to universally accepted principles of justice and constitutionalism. No wonder, the most powerful MAN in both Russia and Hungary are pumped up fortune-hunters, affinity-fraud artists, both are their respective country’s richest capitalists, who derive their power, their political capital, by peddling fairy tales, by destroying the citizen’s ability to distinguish illusion from reality.

    The American midterms are just around the corner. Just wait what will happen when the original architects of Putyin’s and Orbán’s path get their hands once again on the levers of power in America. The we can sing: That’ll be the day…

  3. Thanks for this very revealing article. It highlights the fact that Hungary’s current government has been taking a pragmatic approach to Russia, not unlike Germany, France and other West European countries. Will Germany stop buying Russian oil & gas? Will Siemens no longer seek access to the Russian market for its goods?

    By contrast, Hungary’s opposition politicians would go ahead and harm Hungary’s economy, far beyond what its West European peers are willing to do. And for what exactly? For a country that has been treating its ethnic Hungarian minority like dirt?

    And yes, the cherry on the top is Marky-Zay, suggesting that Hungary should together with NATO send troops to Ukraine. Something that no NATO country is even remotely entertaining, for very obvious reasons. What a putz!!!

  4. Avatar Irene Szotak Varga says:

    I hope someone will take care of Putin dismantel him and take him out for ever, so the innocent people wont suffer no more. I was a refuge myself in 1956.

  5. Avatar Göllner András says:

    @ Joe

    I see they’re making you work overtime in the campaign office of Fidesz.What you neglected to mention in your attempt to harness the human tragedy confronting the people of Ukraine, in your haste to pile some shit on the Hungarian opposition leader is that your own Party leader is the closest ally of the Russian butcher/kleptocrat in the Western alliance. Orbán is on record with his claim that Putin’s and the Chinese Communist Party leader’s chosen path into the future is the one he wants Hungary to follow. Joey ! You suck big time. No one but a fool takes anything you say down here on behalf of your crooked boss as anything other than poppycock.

    • Campaign office? I thought it was troll farm for me! Is there a promotion I received that I am not aware of? Awesome!

      Other than that, Germany has been by far Russia’s closest ally in the EU. Manfred Webber just recently confirmed that it was not Hungary, but rather Germany which was the last holdout resisting cutting Russia off from SWIFT.

      Which is not to say that it is a bad thing to be on cordial terms with Russia. Last year, 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (oil, liquids, gas) were discovered worldwide, while about 45 billion barrels were consumed. World has been consuming more than discovered every year this century. It is starting to catch up to us. There is a reason why Russia chose this year to reassert itself. And there is a reason why aside from the Western world and a few dependencies, no one is getting on board with the whole sanctions thing against Russia. This whole sanctions thing could backfire spectacularly. Just some nonsense from the troll farm for you. Not that I really expect an academic to understand the implications of the nonsense I cited.

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