Ukraine withdraws Hungary ambassador over gas deal with Russia
Ukraine and Hungary have summoned their ambassadors after Budapest signed a natural gas deal with Russia’s state-run energy firm, Gazprom.
The Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó signed a 15-year gas supply deal this week as Ukraine sees its gas transit income threatened by the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The Hungarian annual deal for 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas will supply half of Hungary’s gas consumption via new, circuitous routes through Serbia and Austria, bypassing Ukraine.
“Hungary’s energy needs can be secured in the safest way by a long-term contract with Gazprom,” Szijjártó told the media.
He used Facebook to criticise Kiev’s response.
Szijjarto posted that he was “deeply outraged” over the Ukrainian move to block the deal and that Ukraine’s ambassador had been summoned in an “attempt to violate our sovereignty”.
“The Ukrainians have nothing to do with what we agree on and with whom. We consider it a serious violation of our sovereignty and national security interests that they want to prevent the secure supply of gas to our country, the heating of Hungarian people’s homes and the operation of industry,” Szijjarto posted.
The Soviet-era gas pipeline through Ukraine previously provided the war-torn country with an annual income worth 2 per cent of its GDP.
The agreement costs Ukraine its transit fees and the embattled former Soviet state said it would ask the European Commission to assess whether the deal contravenes European Union energy legislation.
The commission has several, ongoing disputes with the quasi-democratic Hungarian administration.
Ukraine and Hungary have already been in dispute over a 2017 Ukrainian law requiring schools to use the Ukrainian language for pupils after the age of 10.
The nationalist Fidesz administration in Hungary said the law limits the language rights of around 150,000 ethnic Hungarians in the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia. Budapest has since stifled Ukrainian efforts to boost ties with Nato and the EU.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the Gazprom agreement was a “purely political, economically unreasonable decision [taken] to the detriment of Ukraine’s national interests and Ukrainian-Hungarian relations”.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told ICTV in Ukraine that Hungary had “dealt a blow to Ukrainian-Hungarian relations by excluding the Ukrainian gas pipeline from the gas supply scheme from Russia”.
“This is a blow, and we will respond to it accordingly because there should be no pity and no sympathy,” Kuleba added.
Hungary has previously relied on Russia for the majority of its gas imports through Ukraine.
Ukraine previously relied on Gazprom’s exports for a significant chunk of its national income. Picture credit: YouTube