It is “very important” that Hungary should “not at all drift into the war” in Ukraine, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said in an interview to Hungarian public media on Thursday.
“Hungary supports its allies — NATO and the European Union — and it is crucial that the unity of those two organisations are maintained at this time,” Gulyás said. “Hungary condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine alongside other NATO and EU members,” he added.
Ensuring the security of Hungary and its residents is of paramount importance, the minister said.
Hungary should not “in any way” get involved in the war, he said. “Just as important is that we should be able to carry on pursuing our own interests,” he said, adding that projects that are closely related to economic ties with Russia, such as buying natural gas, should be maintained.
“Hungary, naturally, supports its allies, but we also want to make it clear that there is no need for Hungarian soldiers to get involved in this conflict,” Gulyás said.
Soldiers and law-enforcement bodies are there to maintain the country’s security, while the Hungarian state will contribute to efforts aimed at creating peace, Gulyás said.
Referring to the emergency EU summit in Brussels on Thursday evening, he said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was attending in that spirit, adding that he hoped the government’s achievements in recent years could be preserved.
Meanwhile, Gulyás accused the Hungarian opposition of “pursuing their selfish power interests”, adding that the opposition was incapable of giving priority to the interests of Hungary and its citizens during a crisis, branding them as “irresponsible”.
Gulyás said said the current situation warranted support for the government in conducting responsible negotiations.
He said the government had made every possible effort to preserve the peace. Now that Russia has attacked Ukraine, it would continue taking every possible step in the interest of restoring peace as soon as possible, Gulyás said.
Calls for Hungary to deliver weapons to Ukraine and deploy soldiers there, he said, were “irresponsible, ill-considered and, in the present situation, particularly harmful.”
(The opposition has not, however, voiced direct support for sending weapons or soldiers to Ukraine. In an interview with ATV News, Péter Márki-Zay, leader of the opposition’s United for Hungary movement, stated that in this case, NATO decisions must be followed.)
Concerning the gas supply agreement Hungary concluded with Russia recently, Gulyás said the EU countries would discuss in Brussels in the evening what sanctions to impose on Russia.
“It is in Europe’s interests not to impose sanctions that would do more harm to itself than to Russia. Gas supply belongs to this category,” he said.
On the subject of refugees, he said Hungary was particularly concerned about a potential humanitarian crisis because Transcarpathia is home to 200,000 ethnic Hungarians, adding that “Hungary is prepared to provide them safe haven, no matter what.”
“Hungary is the first safe country in this conflict, so we must prepare for the situation in Ukraine to take a turn for the worse,” he said.
The interior ministry and the army have plans in place to accommodate thousands of refugees in Hungary, he said, and the government has contingency for managing any conceivable wave of refugees.
featured image via Zoltán Máthé/MTI