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The presidents of four Central European countries found some common ground Wednesday on Ukraine despite their governments’ diverging views on military support for its fight against Russia’s invasion.
The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, all four post-communist European Union and NATO members, form an informal collective known as the Visegrad Group.
At their annual meeting, the host, Czech President Petr Pavel, noted the leaders didn’t have sharply different opinions on the war, saying that “we’ve all agreed that it is in our imminent interest that Ukraine succeeds.”
“We’ve agreed that we have to support Ukraine with all kinds of help,” Pavel added. Polish President Duda echoed that: “Ukraine needs help and we should provide it.”
The Czech Republic and Poland have been have been staunch supporters of Ukraine, opening their borders for refugees and donating arms, though Polish-Ukrainian relations soured in September over Ukrainian grain entering and affecting Poland’s market.
But Hungary’s government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has refused to supply Ukraine with weapons and has threatened to veto EU financial aid packages to Kyiv. It also accuses Ukraine of violating the rights of an ethnic Hungarian minority in western Ukraine by restricting use of the Hungarian language in schools.
Hungary’s President Katalin Novák said in Prague that the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine are not negotiable. But she added that „we have a common position that Russia must not win this war.”
The new government of Slovakia, led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, has ended military aid for Ukraine. The government said it was still ready to provide humanitarian and other aid.
“Our aid to Ukraine is important and makes sense because it is above all in our interest, our interest in the stability and peace in the region,” said Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, a staunch supporter of Ukraine.