Hungary’s top army chief was relieved of his post Thursday without explanation, according to a presidential decree, the latest upheaval in the NATO member’s armed forces in recent months.
Several hundred senior officers and military intelligence officers have reportedly been fired this year as a law adopted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government in January allowed the defense minister to sack anyone over the age of 45.
While the government says it wants to rejuvenate the armed forces, opposition parties called the personnel cull “purges” aimed at replacing Western-oriented pro-NATO officers.
“With effect from April 27, I have dismissed Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi, the commander of the Hungarian Defense Forces, from his position,” said a decree signed by President Katalin Novak in Hungary’s official gazette.
No further details were provided.
Ruszin-Szendi was Hungary youngest-ever commander when appointed at the age of 46 by Novak’s predecessor as president, Janos Ader, in 2019.
According to a Defense Ministry statement Thursday, his proposed replacement is Gabor Borondi, 52, currently Hungary’s military representative to NATO and the EU.
Ruszin-Szendi “will continue to serve his country in another field,” said the statement.
The move follows upheaval in senior army ranks this year with the government, which has beefed up defense spending, saying it wants to create “a performance-dependent competitive situation” in the army.
The Atlatszo investigative site on Thursday published a video purportedly showing helicopters bound for neighboring Ukraine filmed at Hungary’s Gyor-Per airport in February.
Earlier this month, US news outlet Politico said leaked unverified US military intelligence documents indicated Hungary may be secretly letting allies use its airspace to move arms to Ukraine.
The Defense Ministry has denied the report, repeatedly stating that helicopters intended for Ukraine were not allowed to pass through Hungarian airspace.
Under Orban, who has maintained close economic ties to Russia since the invasion, Hungary has refused to send military aid to Ukraine or even let military equipment transit its territory.