An ally of Aleksander Lukashenko, the chief of the Belarusian Football Federation, Vladimir Bazanov, has been deported from the Czech Republic using a Schengen visa granted by Hungary, reported RFE/RL, based on Czech media outlet Denník N. The Orbán-led government later acknowledged issuing the visa, but claimed that they were acting on behalf of Switzerland.
Bazanov arrived in the Czech Republic with his wife accompanying the Belarus women’s national football team to attend a women’s World Cup qualifier match between the Czech Republic and Belarus.
As the couple did not have a Czech residence permit and had violated COVID-19 pandemic rules, they were immediately expelled from the country on November 30. The Czech Football Federation said they did not invite Bazanov or his spouse.
Vladimir Bazanov had previously been banned by several countries of the Schengen area (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) for his role in the Belarusian election fraud and the violent crackdown on the subsequent protests.
It is no surprise that Hungary granted the couple a visa, since the easiest way for Belarusian citizens to enter Schengen is currently through Hungary, provided they have high political connections, a Czech analyst told Denník N.
Hungary says they acted on behalf of Switzerland
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry later admitted to RFE/RL that Bazanov’s Schengen visa was indeed granted by the Hungarian authorities, but said it was issued on behalf of Switzerland under an agreement between the two countries, and that the Belarusian had an invitation from UEFA.
The Foreign Ministry told the news site that Bazanov and his wife were issued a 90-day visa on May 21st which was “issued by the Hungarian consulate responsible for the region, acting on behalf of Switzerland in the framework of the visa representation.”
The visa representation agreement means that if a state does not have its proper visa section in a country or region, the delivery of a Schengen visa can be delegated to another Schengen State member with an agreement between both countries concerned. There are two such agreements between Switzerland and Hungary: in Chisinau and Minsk.
In its article, RFE/RL recalls that the Minsk embassy involved in the visa case of Bazanov is headed by Zsolt Csutora, former Deputy State Secretary for Eastern Opening, and former Ambassador to Baku.
It was during his service in Azerbaijan that Hungary extradited an Azerbaijani national (convicted for murder in Budapest back in 2004) to his home country, who was pardoned right after his arrival. Hungary’s decision stirred a huge diplomatic backlash as many suspected political and business interests behind the move.
According to Switzerland’s official visa information site, the issuing of visas to Minsk through Hungarian authorities is currently suspended. However, an earlier Russian version of the page suggests that it may have been operational at the time the Hungarian Foreign Ministry granted the visa to Bazanov.
In the featured photo illustration: Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó. Photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI