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Hungary opposes new EU sanctions, military assistance to Ukraine — top diplomat

Peter Szijjarto demanded that the OTP bank to be removed from the list of international war sponsors
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto EPA-EFE/Marton Monus
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto
© EPA-EFE/Marton Monus

BUDAPEST, May 22. /TASS/. Budapest opposes a number of key provisions in the 11th package of sanctions on Russia developed by the European Commission and will not support giving any additional military assistance from the European Peace Facility until its OTP Bank is taken off of Ukraine’s list of international war sponsors, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday.

He recalled that EU countries want to increase military assistance to Ukraine from the European Peace Facility to the tune of 500 million euro. "We demand the Ukrainians remove OTP from the list of international war sponsors. Until that happens, we will not give our consent to allocate these 500 million euro to EU countries as compensation for their spending on weapons to Ukraine," he told Hungarian journalists during a break in the meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

The top diplomat’s press conference was broadcast live on his Facebook page (Facebook is banned in Russia due to its ownership by Meta, which has been designated as extremist).

On May 4, Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention put Hungary’s OTP Bank Group, which continues to operate in Russia, on the list of international sponsors of war. Szijjarto slammed this decision as "scandalous and unacceptable."

As of today, he stressed, Hungary’s largest bank, OTP, "had not violated a single national or international law" and its blacklisting in Ukraine is absolutely illegal.

The top Hungarian diplomat also recalled that his country’s government was against weapons supplies to Ukraine in general and would not budge from this position. "Weapons supplies are fraught with the risk of escalating the war and the longer this war continues, the more people will die," he stressed.

Touching on the 11th package of anti-Russian sanctions, which was also a topic of discussion for the EU foreign ministers, the Hungarian minister noted, "Brussels should have learned a lesson from the consequences of the sanctions."

"Sanctions are more harmful to Europe than they are to Russia and I think that the 10th package of sanctions should not be followed by an 11th, which would turn out to be a true test for Europe in general and the economy of European countries," he said, adding that Hungary opposed additional restrictions for European companies in terms of trading in Russian goods, as well as sanctions on Chinese companies suspected of cooperating with Russia.

He also reiterated that Hungary will oppose any EU sanctions that would restrict cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear energy. "Despite the pressure that’s being exerted on us, we will strongly oppose any kind of sanctions affecting the nuclear industry, because that concerns Hungary's energy security. In no case will we risk the security of Hungary's energy supply," he said.

Apart from that, Szijjarto stressed that Budapest will continue to demand that the Ukrainian authorities restore the rights of the Hungarian minority in the Zakarpattia Region. Until this problem is settled, Hungary will not support Kiev’s aspirations to integrate into the European Union, he pledged.

Summing up the results of the ministerial meeting, the Hungarian minister noted that no decision had been made about using the European Peace Facility to further finance weapons supplies to Ukraine. "No decision on sanctions was made either," he said.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said earlier on Monday that the 11th package of sanctions could be agreed before the next EU ministerial meeting in June. Talks on this topic continue. At the same time, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has admitted that not only Hungary but a number of other countries object to the 11th package.