Hungary nixes NATO statement on Ukraine due to minority spat

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian officials said Wednesday that the country has vetoed a joint NATO statement about Ukraine because it didn't mention the "deprivation of rights" of the Hungarian minority in the neighboring country.

At the same time, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto rejected criticism that Hungary's relationship with Russia is too cozy or that Hungary advocates for "pragmatic relations" with Russia because "we are Russian spies."

"These are laughable insults on (the) part of our Western friends," Szijjarto said

Hungary says that changes to Ukrainian education and language laws curtail minority rights and Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is also at odds with Ukraine because it rejects allowing ethnic Hungarians there to hold dual citizenship.

Orban followed up on Szijjarto's comments Wednesday evening, after hosting a meeting in his new offices in Buda Castle with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian government.

Orban said that the NATO statement on Ukraine was still being worked on and that the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, estimated at around 125,000 people, was "suffering from legal discrimination and is often subjected to political and physical threats."

Orban said Hungary was seeking to include in the NATO statement that Ukraine should adopt changes recommended to the disputed laws by the Venice Commission, legal experts for the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights body.

Orban said that while Ukraine's previous government, led by former President Petro Poroshenko "had openly anti-Hungarian policies," he was optimistic and looking forward to meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who took office in May, "to clear up these issues."

"Now there's a new president," Orban said. "A new president, new hopes, new opportunities."

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