Police open criminal case into incident with Hungarian flag in Berehove

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Law enforcers of Zakarpattia region have opened a criminal investigation into the actions by participants in a procession to Berehove, who tried to remove the flag of Hungary.

The proceedings were launched under Article 296 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism, a flagrant violation of public order based on apparent disrespect for society, accompanied by special impudence or exceptional cynicism), the press service of Zakarpattia Regional State Administration said on Nov. 14.

The police are establishing all the persons involved in the provocation, the investigative actions are continuing.

According to the regional state administration, last Sunday a group of people, most of whom came to Zakarpattia from neighboring regions of Ukraine, arranged a procession to Berehove, during which xenophobic slogans were proclaimed.

“The procession participants removed the flag of Hungary from the town hall, and then from the buildings of the village councils in the villages of Yanosha and Hat, Berehove district, where the Hungarian community lives,” the regional state administration said in a statement.

Earlier media reports said that on Nov. 12 around 50 activists from the nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) in Berehove removed a Hungarian flag from the town council building and tried to set it on fire. The attempt was foiled by the police, who seized the flag and restored it to its place.

Head of Zakarpattia Regional State Administration Hennadiy Moskal said that he was “totally puzzled by the position of the police, which watched the provocation in Berehove passively.” He said political forces which staged a Hungarian flag-burning provocation in Berehove have no support in the region and most demonstrators had come from neighboring regions.

“While on the central level Ukraine is doing everything to find common ground with Hungary and iron out misunderstandings over the education law, a handful of fringe types, with their provocative behavior, are trying to sow discord between our two nations,” Moskal was quoted by his press service as saying on Nov. 13. “Xenophobic rallies involving people with masked faces, disguised by patriotic slogans, are unacceptable in Ukraine, especially in multiethnic regions, Zakarpattia being one of them,” Moskal said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said he is awaiting an investigation of the incident with the Hungarian flag. The minister said they appealed to the Ukrainian ambassador in Budapest in connection with the incident. The Foreign Minister stressed that in a developed European nation such cases are unacceptable.

“Criminals should be detained and brought to justice as soon as possible,” Sijjarto said.

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