Hungary has denied a German media report saying the country was prepared to back a European ban on Russian oil and gas in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Budapest has asserted its stance on the matter after German public broadcaster ZDF quoted sources as saying that “hesitant” countries, such as Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, have “withdrew its veto”.
Hungarian government international spokesman Zoltan Kovacs tweeted on Monday: “No, dear ZDF editors, Hungary has not ‘surrendered its veto’. In fact, Hungary’s position on oil and gas sanctions [from] Russia remains unchanged: we do not support them.
Hungary, which relies heavily on Russian energy imports, has warned that cutting supplies from Moscow will hurt its economy. “We must not adopt sanctions with which we mainly penalize ourselves instead of those whom we want to punish”, Gergely Gulyas, the prime minister’s chief of staff, told Kossuth Radio on Sunday. He explained that his country is experiencing higher than expected inflation and wishes to continue receiving “energy at the cheapest possible price.”
In a separate interview with HirTV, Gulyas confirmed that Budapest would never support an embargo on Russian oil and gas.
The EU unveiled a plan in March to phase out Russian fossil fuels by 2030, but refrained from an immediate ban, defying calls from kyiv to do so.
On Monday, Reuters quoted EU officials as saying Brussels could exempt Hungary and Slovakia from the embargo on Russian oil, which is said to be in the works. The new sanctions package is expected to be finalized on Tuesday.
After the West froze Russian state assets in response to its military campaign in Ukraine, Moscow demanded that EU members switch to paying for Russian gas in rubles. Russia cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria last week because they refused to pay in Russian currency.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the decision “unjustified and unacceptable”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the demand to pay for gas in rubles was justified because the West had “Fly” Russian assets, “the majority of which had been won through the supply of gas and oil.”
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the republics from the Donbass of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.