American publicist, Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, aired on Thursday, has also touched on one of the most sensitive issues in recent politics, that of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, and claims of an alleged deal between Russia and Hungary to re-annex Transcarpathia by Hungary. The Russian President’s replies will surprise few in Hungary, but certainly helps to dispel some of the false accusations that have been spread by European politicians about alleged secret deals between the Russian and Hungarian leaders.
Ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 media reports have surfaced with statements made by Ukrainian or European politicians claiming that there is a secret deal between Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán to re-annex the Western-Ukrainian territories of Transcarpathia to Hungary. These territories have formed parts of historic Hungary and are inhabited by a sizeable Hungarian minority. Transcarpathia, or Zakarpatska Rus, have been attached to the newly created Czechoslovakia by the Versailles peace treaty in 1920, and after WW II given to Ukraine.
Journalists and politicians from neighboring countries have theorized that the Hungarian government’s refusal to join weapons shipments for Ukraine, and their opposition to economic sanctions against Russia was a result of a secret deal between Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán about the re-annexation of Transcarpathia to Hungary. For instance, former Slovak economy minister Karel Hirman, in an article written for the news portal Postoj, claimed that “Putin expressed his support for Orbán ahead of the upcoming Hungarian parliamentary elections in a very diplomatic but nonetheless supportive manner. They both share a common strategic goal: to move their countries’ borders with their neighbors to eliminate the losses they have experienced after the turbulent events of the 20th century.” Former Slovakian Foreign Minister, and the country’s earlier ambassador to Hungary, Rastislav Kácer went as far as suggesting that there is a deal between Putin and Orbán to invade Slovakia as well. Falsehoods were spread about an alleged secret deal by Ukrainian oligarchs, such as the Baloha family, and were readily republished by Western journalist as facts. These false news have spread as far as the Japanese media.
In his recent interview with the Russian President though, American journalist Tucker Carlson has explicitly raised the question with Vladimir Putin, asking him at minute twenty: “Have you told Viktor Orbán that he can have part of Ukraine?” The Russian President replied spontaneously and resolutely:
Never, I have never told him. Not a single time. We have not even had any conversations on that. But I actually know for sure that Hungarians who live there wanted to get back their historical lands”.
Vladimir Putin then went on to share a personal story with the U.S. journalist. “Somewhere in the early eighties, I went on a roadtrip in a car, from then Leningrad across the Soviet Union through Kiev. We stopped in Kiev, and then we went to Western Ukraine. I went to the town of Beregovoje (Beregszász in Hungarian, ed. note). All the names of towns and villages were in Russian and a language I did not understand: in Hungarian. In Russian and in Hungarian. Not in Ukrainian – in Russian and in Hungarian. I was driving through a village and there were men sitting next tot he houses. They were wearing black three-piece suits and black hats. I asked, are they some kind of entertainers? I was told no, they were not entertainers, they are Hungarians. I said, what are they doing here? What do you mean? This is their land, they live here. This was during the Soviet times during the 1980s. They preserved the Hungarian language, the Hungarian names, and all their national costumes. They are Hungarians and they feel Hungarians. And of course now, that there is an infringement…”
Unfortunately at this crucial part, where President Putin was most likely about to speak concerning the infringement of the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, he is interrupted by the U.S. journalist who reacts by saying that “I think that there is a lot of that, I think many nations are (also) upset about Transylvania. Many nations feel frustrated by the redrawn borders of the twentieth century”.
Needless to say, despite the unequivocal clarification by Vladimir Putin, the allegations of separatism among Ukrainian-Hungarians will continue to be spread by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and republished in an uncritical manner by global media outlets. The reasons for this are numerous, but chief among them is the fact that the image projected by the Carlson interview is both at odd with the almost universally accepted media image of Vladimir Putin, as well as with that of the rationale of the Hungarian standpoint towards the conflict in Ukraine. Nevertheless, this is the clearest first-hand indication as yet that the policies formulated by the Hungarian government since the eruption of the war in Ukraine, be they right or wrong, are an expression of a sovereign Hungarian national policy, and not of clandestine revisionist geopolitical deals as suggested by Viktor Orbán’s political opponent.
Featured Photo: Twitter Tucker Carlson