Hungary exits Russian 'spy bank' after US sanctions

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Hungary quits IIB Bank after US sanctions

The Hungarian government decided to exit the Russia-controlled International Investment Bank (IIB) after the United States imposed sanctions on three senior officials of the financial institution. Russian nationals Nikolay Kosov, the bank's former chairman, Georgy Potapov, and Imre Laszloczki a Hungarian citizen, were named on the sanctions list.  

Before Budapest's decision the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania have already quit or started the withdrawal process from the bank that is often referred to as Moscow's trojan horse' in the European Union. 

US Ambassador David Pressman held a press conference on Wednesday where he announced the sanctions. "The presence of this opaque Kremlin platform in the heart of Hungary threatens the security and sovereignty of the Hungarian people, their European neighbors, and their NATO allies," Pressman said.  “Unlike other NATO allies, Hungary has dismissed the concerns of the United States government regarding the risks its continued presence poses to the alliance,” the ambassador added. 

Pentagon leaks: Orban called the U.S. one of his main adversaries

Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban was also mentioned in the recently leaked CIA assessment. Orban reportedly called the US one of the top three adversaries of his party. According to the leaked document the comment was made during a Fidesz parliamentary meeting in February. The leaked CIA document states that Orbán’s statement “constitutes an escalation of the level of anti-American rhetoric in his discourse.”

Relations between Washington and Budapest are tense, many because of Orban's close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Hungary was the only EU member state without an invite to US President Joe Biden's Summit for Democracy last month.

Hungary signs new energy deal with Russia 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto signed new agreements in Moscow to ensure Hungary's continued access to Russian energy. The Hungarian FM met Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Alexander Novak and Alexey Likhachev, chief executive of Rosato, AP reports. Szijjarto said Russian state energy company Gazprom had agreed to allow Hungary, if needed, to import quantities of natural gas beyond the amounts agreed to in a long-term contract that was amended last year. 

Szijjarto is one of the only EU officials that have met Russian officials in Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine. “As long as the issue of energy supply is a physical issue and not a political or ideological one, like it or not, Russia and cooperation with Russia will remain crucial for Hungary’s energy security,” Hungary's top diplomat said. 

Belarusian Foreign Minister holds talks with Szijjarto in Hungary

On Tuesday, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik arrived in Hungary, to meet with Minister of Agriculture István Nagy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto. Szijjarto has just arrived back from Moscow where he sealed new energy deals with Russia, despite EU criticism. Alenik took part in an intergovernmental meeting where economic cooperation was discussed between the two countries.

In March the European Parliament adopted a resolution that underlines the importance of strengthening EU unity concerning Belarus, including the diplomatic isolation of the current regime.  The resolution includes a paragraph on Szijjártó's recent trip to Minsk.

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