Hungary to call for removal of Russian oligarchs from EU sanctions list – reportReading Time: 2 minutes
Hungary will not agree to the extension of EU sanctions against Russia unless visa bans and asset freezes against three Russian oligarchs are lifted, according to diplomatic sources that spoke to news outlet Szabad Europa.
The EU’s punitive measures are extended every six months, and the renewal, due on 15 September, requires the support of all 27 EU member states.
At the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) meeting on Wednesday, Hungary will reportedly threaten to veto the renewal of EU sanctions against over one thousand Kremlin-linked individuals and over one hundred entities, which were put in place in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Hungary will demand that Alisher Usmanov, Pyotr Aven and Viktor Rashnikov be removed from the list and also argue that humanitarian organisations that cooperate with sanctioned Russian banks should be exempted, according to Szabad Europa’s sources.
Of the three oligarchs, two are in Putin’s inner circle, and were listed for sanctions in February. None of the three businessmen have significant links to Hungary.
Usmanov, who is known as “Putin’s fixer”, was implicated in the mid-April seizure of the superyacht Dilbar , which he has unsuccessfully challenged at the European Court of Justice. Aven is reportedly one of around 50 Russian entrepreneurs in regular contact with the Kremlin. Both Usmanov and Aven were named in the EU’s visa ban and asset freeze lists in February.
The third oligarch, Rashnikov, the owner and chairman of the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works MMK, was added to the EU’s sanctions list in March.
Hungary – Russia’s friend in the EU
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU, and last week was the only western premier to attend the funeral of the late Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow.
Orban has been openly critical of EU sanctions against Russia, has blocked Western arms shipments through Hungarian territory and broken rank with the EU to allow payments for Russian gas in rubles.
In May, Hungary was the most vocal of a small group of landlocked countries that secured exemptions from a ban on buying Russian oil, but this time is making its demands unilaterally. Orban also opposed the inclusion of Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing freedom of religious expression.
In recent months Hungary has pushed forward with the expansion of the country’s only nuclear power plant, to be overseen by Russian state energy company Rosatom.
Hungary is currently waiting for the EU to release funds of more than EUR 37bn that it has suspended over concerns regarding the application of the rule of law in the country. On Monday the Orban government announced in Hungary’s official gazette a decree that it will establish an anti-corruption body to oversee the spending of EU funds.