Hungary Severs Aid to Ukraine

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Hungary halting aid to Ukraine, the Philippines countering China’s maritime control, and new U.S. sanctions on companies selling military equipment to Russia.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Hungary halting aid to Ukraine, the Philippines countering China’s maritime control, and new U.S. sanctions on companies selling military equipment to Russia.

While Ukraine scrambles for support across the Atlantic, it’s losing allies in its own backyard. On Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that Budapest would no longer support Ukraine on any international issues until Kyiv restores language rights to ethnic Hungarians. Orban has long criticized a 2017 Ukrainian law restricting the use of minority languages in schools, arguing that 150,000 ethnic Hungarians are not allowed to learn in their native tongue.

Hungary’s foreign-policy cold shoulder comes as the European Union prepares to vote on Ukraine’s potential membership in December; accession to the bloc requires unanimous consent. Joining the EU has long been a goal of Ukraine’s, especially as membership would strengthen Kyiv’s war-battered economy. That makes Hungary’s support vital for Ukraine’s future.

However, Orban maintains close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As far-right autocratic leaders, the two have similarities in governance, ideology, and views on Western expansion. And despite Budapest working to diversify its gas supplies, Hungary still heavily relies on Moscow for oil and other critical resources.

This is not Hungary’s first time distancing itself from Kyiv to assuage Putin. Since Russia invaded in February 2022, Hungary has refused to ship weapons to Ukraine, choosing instead to take a more humanitarian approach. On Monday, even that avenue appeared to be under threat after Hungary rebuked the EU for asking it to open up a “solidarity corridor” for transporting Ukrainian grain to Africa. Orban said the grain has instead been sold in Hungary, creating a surplus that has hurt the country’s domestic producers. “Brussels claimed that without Ukrainian grain, serious famine threatened African countries,” Orban said regarding the bloc’s rationale for establishing the corridor following Russia’s de facto blockade of the Black Sea. “Let’s say it straight: They deceived us.”

In Monday’s announcement, Hungary also said it was in “no rush” to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid, arguing that “nothing is threatening Sweden’s security.” The statement reverses reports from just last week that signaled Hungary’s NATO acquiescence. Unanimous approval is required to join the 31-nation military alliance. Budapest originally said it would follow Turkey’s lead in approving Sweden’s membership request. But neither country appears eager to finalize that accession process.

Yours, mine, or ours? Control over a contested shoal in the South China Sea fractured on Monday after the Philippines cut a 980-foot floating barrier first installed by Beijing. The “special operation” was ordered by Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to remove a navigational hazard that allegedly violates international law.

On Tuesday local time, the Philippines vowed to continue fighting Chinese maritime aggression as part of Manila’s latest effort to assert sovereignty over the waterway. “We have shown the world the Filipino people will not back down,” said the Philippine Coast Guard’s spokesperson, “and we’re still going to consistently carry out whatever is necessary for us to maintain our presence.” Meanwhile, top Chinese officials warned the Philippines against provoking China and reiterated Beijing’s ownership of the shoal.

Introducing new sanctions. The U.S. Commerce Department expanded its export blacklist on Monday to include 28 new companies. A handful of these corporations have allegedly violated international sanctions by supplying Russia with military equipment, such as components for unmanned aerial drones. Firms from Russia, China, Pakistan, Finland, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Germany were targeted.

“Our actions send a clear message to those trying to evade our export controls that there will be consequences for behavior that seeks to undermine U.S. national security interests,” said Alan Estevez, the undersecretary of commerce for industry and security.

A perilous road. Ethnic Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh faced unexpected danger on Monday when a gas station near Stepanakert, the region’s capital, exploded while refugees were refueling their cars. At least 68 people were killed and hundreds more wounded while trying to evacuate, local officials said on Tuesday. Displaced people have been warned not to rush to prevent congested roadways and further catastrophes.

According to the Armenian government, more than 28,000 people have entered Armenia since Azerbaijan ended its brief offensive in the disputed region last week. The Russian-brokered cease-fire grants Azerbaijan control over Nagorno-Karabakh, paving a way for Baku to fold ethnic Armenians into its constitution, but many fear their rights will not be respected given past experiences over decades of conflict.

First came the heat. Then came the floods. And finally, the sheep arrived. One marijuana producer in Greece lost more than 600 pounds of cannabis after a flock of sheep broke into his greenhouse and dined on the plants, which were being cultivated for medical use. The animals were “jumping higher than goats,” the greenhouse’s owner said. Talk about getting the munchies.

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