KRAKOW, Jan 14 – A German journalist with apparent Russian connections has ordered the firebombing of a Hungarian cultural center in Ukraine last year, according to a Polish national who had carried out the attack.
Michal Prokopowicz, 28, told a Krakow court on Monday that German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter provided instructions for the February 4, 2018, attack on the headquarters of the Hungarian Cultural Association in Uzhhorod, RFE/RL reported.
A representative for Ochsenreiter called the claim "false."
The attack worsened relations between Ukraine and Hungary with Budapest publically accusing Kyiv of putting growing pressure on ethnic Hungarians. The rift has eventually led to Hungary blocking Ukraine’s involvement in NATO meetings.
Russia has repeatedly criticized Ukraine’s growing cooperation with NATO and has been openly seeking to stop it.
Prokopowicz is one of three Polish suspects with links to far-right movements who went on trial in Krakow on Monday for the attack. Ukrainian authorities investigated the case and passed it along to their counterparts in Poland, where the three men were subsequently detained.
Ochsenreiter, 42, has ties to Polish right-wing activists, including Mateusz Piskorski, founder of the pro-Russian Change (Zmiana) party who was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of spying for Russia and China.
Reached by RFE/RL last week via the Russian social-networking site VKontakte, Ochsenreiter called the suggestion by Anton Shekhovtsov, a researcher of European far-right movements, that he might be the German journalist in question "bullshit." Ochsenreiter did not respond to follow-up questions and subsequently made his account private.
Ochsenreiter, editor of the right-wing German magazine Zuerst! (First!), has been a frequent commentator in Russian state media over the past five years, voicing support for Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and denouncing what he calls the Western media's anti-Moscow bias.
He has also worked in recent months as a consultant for Markus Frohnmaier, a member of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, from the AfD and a strong proponent of lifting EU sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. Frohnmaier did not immediately respond to a request for comment on January 14.
Following the February 4 attack and a second firebombing of the Hungarian cultural center with Molotov cocktails three weeks later, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin suggested that Russia was behind both incidents. (rfe/ez)