EU readies for huge clash as ‘traitor’ Orban demands lift on sanctions

Viktor Orban ally slams EU oil embargo on Russia

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The European Union’s package of sanctions against Russia are due to be renewed this month, but the Hungarian Prime Minister has once again come up with demands threatening to scupper the deal.

Mr Orban’s spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said: “The EU sanctions lists are constantly under review, and there are concerns time and again that the inclusion of certain persons or entities on the sanctions list is not sufficiently justified.”

The Hungarian leader is also asking for exceptions to the sanctions to be broadened for humanitarian aid, sparking fears among EU diplomats he could create more dangerous loopholes in the measures.

One furious EU diplomat said: “We already knew they are traitors.”

Mr Orban is reportedly asking that his demands are met in conjunction with concessions on the price cap against Russian gas exports, which is currently being discussed by the EU Commission and member states.

The move is seen by some diplomats as a tactic to achieve his demands on the price cap, which Hungary would not be able to veto alone as the decision only requires a qualified majority vote.

The Hungarian government is asking for Russian businessmen Alisher Usmanov, Petr Aven and Viktor Rashnikov to be delisted from the sanctions package.

All three are believed to be very close allies to Vladimir Putin, despite their denial.

Last month, the Hungarian Prime Minister reached out to Putin to secure more gas for the winter.

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow where pair discussed the possibility of ensuring more gas supplies and finding a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine.

Mr Orban confirmed a new deal would be signed this summer to provide his country with an additional 700 million cubic metres of gas.

He said: “We are negotiating with the Russians … this deal can be signed during the summer, and then we will be safe.

“Hungary will have enough gas.”

The deal came as a blow to Brussels’ efforts to become ever less dependent on Moscow for energy supplies.

Hungary already receives 3.5 billion cubic metres of gas per year via Bulgaria and Serbia thanks to a deal signed with Russian energy giant Gazprom last year.

Now Hungary has requested a further 700 million cubic metres of gas, something the Russian government has agreed on.

Speaking at a joint conference after the meeting, the Russian politician said: “Today our colleagues expressed the Hungarian government’s interest in a new purchase of natural gas this year.

“This request will be…considered.”

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The amount represents around 6.7 percent of Hungary’s 2020 consumption of the fuel, according to data from the country’s natural-gas pipeline operator.

Gas supplies to Europe have tightened and fuel costs have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow in response, leaving countries scrambling to refill storage and find other supplies.

The Hungarian government announced it would scrap caps on gas and power prices for higher-usage households from August 1, which means many Hungarians will pay much more for the extra energy they consume.

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