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Hungary far-right would lay claim to neighbouring region, if Ukraine loses war

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's far-right Our Homeland party would lay claim to a western region of Ukraine that is home to about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians if Ukraine loses its statehood due to Russia's invasion, the party's leader said late on Saturday.

Our Homeland leader Laszlo Toroczkai made the remarks at a conference where the party, which has six lawmakers in the 199-strong Hungarian parliament, hosted far-right leaders from Germany's AfD and the Dutch Forum for Democracy, among others.

"Regarding the war in Ukraine, our message is very simple: immediate ceasefire, peace and a resolution through talks," Toroczkai said in a video posted on his party's website, calling for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine.

"If this war ends up with Ukraine losing its statehood, because this is also on the cards, then as the only Hungarian party taking this position, let me signal that we lay claim to Transcarpathia," he said, drawing applause from the crowd.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the Ukrainian Embassy in Budapest did not immediately respond to emailed questions for comment about Torockzai's remarks.

In a December interview on public radio, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a summary of his remarks published by government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is due to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in western Ukraine on Monday to prepare the ground for a possible meeting between leaders of the two countries.

Budapest has clashed with Kyiv over what it says are curbs on the rights of roughly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians to use their native tongue.

Last month all European Union states except Hungary, which is also a member of NATO, agreed to start EU accession talks with Ukraine. The bloc's leaders bypassed Orban's opposition by getting him to leave the room when the decision was made.

But leaders could not overcome his resistance to revamping the EU budget to channel 50 billion euros to Kyiv and are expected to revisit the issue at an emergency summit next Thursday.

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by William Maclean)