Hungary will not allow the transit of lethal weapons to Ukraine through its territory, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Monday.
The Hungarian government, which nurtured a close relationship with the Kremlin over the past decade, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and agreed to European sanctions. It also signed off on activating the European Peace Facility, an instrument that allows the EU to finance the purchase and delivery of weapons.
But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — who is facing a tough parliamentary election on April 3 — has insisted over the past days that his country must “stay out” of the conflict and that Hungary itself will not supply weapons to its neighbor.
On Monday, Szijjártó explained the move to go a step further and not permit deliveries of weapons to transit through Hungarian territory as a matter of national security.
“This decision is required in order to guarantee the security of Hungary and the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia,” the minister said, referring to a region of western Ukraine that is home to Hungarian-speaking communities.
“The reason for making this decision is that such deliveries might become targets of hostile military action,” he added.
Hungary will nevertheless deliver humanitarian assistance — including food and water — to western Ukraine, the minister noted.
Szijjártó’s announcement that Hungary will not allow weapons to transit through Hungary was met with dismay among security experts.
“In case of an escalation of the war to the level of Russia attacking NATO countries, Hungary has an obligation to join NATO forces and expose itself to Russian attacks anyways,” said one former Hungarian official.
“No European country can stay low in face of this war when the future of the European security architecture is at stake,” the former official said. “If we let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin reach his goal, we risk the security of Hungary and Europe way beyond the level we do with this minimal contribution to countering this aggression.”