Orban lashes out at EU as he marks 1956 anti-Soviet revolt

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Sunday drew veiled comparisons between the Soviet troops that attacked Hungary during the 1956 revolution and the institutions of the European Union today.

Marking the 66th anniversary of that crushed uprising, Orban suggested that the EU, which sought to stem democratic backsliding in Hungary, would end up like the Soviet Union, which dissolved more than three decades ago.

“Let’s not bother with those who shoot at Hungary from the shadows or from the heights of Brussels. They will end up where their predecessors did,” Orban said in a speech to a select group of guests in the rural western Hungarian town of Zalaegerszeg, breaking with the tradition of giving a speech in Budapest. on the occasion of the anniversary.

His absence from the capital on one of Hungary’s most important national holidays comes as his government faces mounting pressure from a sustained wave of protests by Hungarian teachers and students.

Educators demand higher salaries and better working conditions. Another demonstration was planned for Sunday in Budapest.

Orban, who calls his form of government “illiberal democracy”, also faces the threat of EU funding cuts because of his democratic record and perceived corruption.

Seeking to save some funding, the Hungarian parliament recently passed new anti-corruption legislation. But the country is still at risk of losing billions of euros in funding as punishment for a perceived violation of democratic practices – which has recently weakened the currency and the economy.

“We were here when the first conquering empire attacked us, and we will be here when the last crumbles,” Orban said on Sunday. “We will endure it when we have to and we will push it back when we can. We draw swords when there is a chance, and we resist when long years of oppression come.

“We are victorious even when we are defeated,” Orban said.

National Day on October 23 commemorates the start of a 1956 popular uprising against Soviet repression that began in Budapest and spread across the country.

After Hungary’s Stalinist leader was successfully ousted and Soviet troops driven from the capital, a directive from Moscow sent the Red Army back to Budapest and brutally suppressed the revolution, killing up to 3,000 civilians and destroying much of the city.

The holiday, which looms large in Hungary’s historical memory as a struggle for freedom from Russian repression, comes as war rages in neighboring Ukraine where Moscow has occupied large swathes of the country and annexed illegally four regions.

Orban, widely seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU, lobbied vigorously against the bloc imposing sanctions on Moscow, although the nationalist leader ultimately voted for all of the sanctions packages.

Alone among its Central and Eastern European neighbours, Hungary has refused to supply arms to Ukraine or allow their transfer across its borders. However, Orban said the invasion of Moscow is a “clear aggression” and that his government supports Ukraine’s right to territorial integrity.

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