Ukrainian students
© REUTERS / Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian students pose for a photograph ahead of 2015's World Teachers' Day
A Hungarian official has branded Ukraine's education law "semi-fascist," saying it "tramples" on the rights of minority citizens living in the neighboring country to have access to education in their own language.

Gergey Guiyash, who heads Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's administration, used the harsh words during a media conference in Budapest on Thursday.

Responding to questions about Ukraine's upcoming presidential elections on March 31, Guiyash said he hoped a change in power in Kiev would bring about better diplomatic relations, while lamenting that Budapest had been "unable to communicate with the present one." He stressed that Hungary still hoped amendments can be made to the controversial education law.

Tension between the countries has been growing since 2017, when Ukraine's parliament passed the education reform package. It stipulates that the language of instruction in Ukrainian educational institutions would be Ukrainian, and will be rolled out in stages during a transition period that will run until 2023.

However, the law has been criticized by many of Ukraine's neighbors, with Romania and Russia joining Hungary in condemning the law as a violation of the rights of Ukraine's minority citizens. By way of retaliation, Budapest has threatened to block meetings between Ukraine and both the EU and NATO.

Kiev, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied such allegations. In October, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin claimed the objective of the law wasn't to forcibly assimilate ethnic Hungarians. Instead, he hoped the law would help open up chances for the self-realization of Ukraine's Hungarian minority.