The Hungarian government has refuted claims that it has denied Ukraine’s diplomats access to 11 soldiers who were held as prisoners of war (POWs) by Russia before being moved to Hungary earlier this month.
Zoltán Kovács, Hungary’s state secretary for international communication, told CNN that the soldiers had been “freed in Russia” after the cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta and “were able to declare, out of their own free will, that they wished to come to Hungary.”
Kovács said that most of the soldiers also had Hungarian citizenship, and the rest had, “received refugee status in Hungary.”
They are now “free individuals” who “can stay in Hungary or can leave Hungary at any time out of their own free will,” he added.
The soldiers' transfer to Hungary was first reported on June 8, when the office of the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, announced that, “a group of Ukrainian war prisoners of Transcarpathian origin who had participated in hostilities [had been] transferred to Hungary” that day under an agreement the Church had mediated.
On June 9, Oleh Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, welcomed the soldiers’ release but said Kyiv had not been informed about the negotiations leading to it and requested its consul be granted immediate access.
Today, June 19, Nikolenko claimed that the soldiers were being, “kept in isolation, do not have access to open sources of information, their communication with relatives takes place in the presence of third parties, [and] they are denied the right to establish contact with the Embassy of Ukraine.”
Kovács denied this and said, “The Hungarian government is not following or monitoring their movements any further.”