Russian oil ban not enough to stop them funding war says expert
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Since the start of Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, the EU has fiercely condemned Moscow and supported Kyiv with weapons and funds. However, as the EU looks to pass oil embargo against Russia, Hungary has warned a total ban could be an economic “atomic bomb”.
Mr Orban insisted on Friday Hungary would not support a new round of proposed EU sanctions against Russia if they included a ban on Russian oil exports.
He said: “We cannot accept a proposal that ignores this circumstance because in its current form it is equivalent to an atomic bomb dropped on the Hungarian economy.”
The Hungarian leader’s decision was not welcomed by Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt, who was the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe from 2009 to 2019.
Mr Verhodstadt tweeted: “Orbán wants EU taxpayer’s money to agree an EU oil ban against Russia. Just appalling.
“His blackmail makes the EU dysfunctional, a gift for the murderers in the Kremlin. Time for reform, time to end unanimity in EUCO.”
Speaking to Sky News, former UK ambassador to Russia Sir Andrew Wood also blasted Mr Orban as “closet and not-so-closet friend of Putin”.
He told the broadcaster: “The Hungarians, Viktor Orban, a closet and not-so-closet friend of Putin’s has indicated that he is not yet for the package unless there’s some protection for Hungary which does get a lot of oil from Russia.
“But it does need unanimous consent by the EU’s 27 members.
“But the fact is, we’re not going to end this conflict until Putin is starved of oil and gas revenues, so one way or another, we have to go on ramping up these sanctions.”
In response to outrage over Hungary’s refusal to totally ban Russian oil exports, Attila Demko, Hungarian security policy expert and former diplomat, said claims Mr Orban is aligned with Putin is “grossly unfair”.
He wrote for Spiked: “Hungary’s president, prime minister and parliament have all condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an unprovoked, barbaric attack on a sovereign country.
“They have also condemned the alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops. Does this sound like a nation that is too close to Russia?
“Hungary has clearly rallied to Ukraine’s side. More than 600,000 refugees were welcomed with open hearts into a country with a population of less than 10million.
“According to the UN, more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have remained in Hungary. To put that into perspective, it would be equivalent to four million refugees entering the UK and 700,000 staying.”
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Mr Demko noted Hungary is not as “robust on sanctions against Russia as the UK or some other EU member states”, but stressed sanctions taken by the bloc will “be painful for Hungary”.
He noted the country has “already voted for five rounds of EU sanctions”, and said Slovakia and other EU nations will also “suffer” under the bloc’s total ban on oil.
Mr Demko then said “the loss of oil exports to Hungary would mean almost nothing to Russia” and “profoundly damage the Hungarian economy”.
The expert also questioned whether sanctions will “free Russia to be even more destructive in Ukraine”, as oil and energy still pass through Kyiv.
He then said: “Hungary, as a neighbour and as a member of both NATO and the EU, stands by Ukraine.
“But wishing realities away would only serve Moscow’s hardliners. And an economically weakened Central Europe would be far less able to help Ukraine.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a conference organized by the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper it is “not easy to establish unity” on the planned oil embargo.
She added: “The countries that are now hesitating are not yet ready. We are sitting together with these countries to work out pragmatic things, such as getting alternative oil to these countries.”
EU sources told Reuters that the EU commission had tweaked its oil embargo proposal in order to address the concerns brought forward by member states.
The altered plan would reportedly allow Hungary and Slovakia to keep importing Russian oil until the end of 2024.
The original proposal would have halted Russian oil imports into the EU within six months and refined oil products by the end of 2022.
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