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Ukraine expels Hungarian consul after passport row

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By Natalia Zinets

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine has given a Hungarian consul 72 hours to leave country after accusing his consulate of illegally issuing passports to ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Ukraine accused the consul, who is based in the western town of Berehove near the Hungarian border, of “activities incompatible with the status of a consular officer”.

The expulsion is the latest in a series of diplomatic rows between Ukraine and Hungary, which have led to Hungary promising to block Kiev’s aspirations to join the European Union and NATO.

“We hope that the Hungarian side will refrain from any unfriendly steps towards Ukraine in the future, and that its officials will not violate Ukrainian legislation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin had warned in a Facebook post on Wednesday that “the events around the distribution of Hungarian citizenship in Berehove, let’s say, do not add joy. They only complicate the already not perfect relationship between the two countries.”

Ukraine’s move to oblige teachers to use only Ukrainian in secondary schools prompted Hungary’s Foreign Minister last year to say bilateral relations were at their lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine has sought greater integration with Europe since the ouster of a Moscow-backed president by mass protests in 2014 and the subsequent outbreak of a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern regions.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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