In a sign that Budapest might not be prepared to lift its veto of a significant military aid package to Ukraine, Hungary’s foreign minister stated on Wednesday that his country wants guarantees from Kiev that a Hungarian bank, recently removed from a Ukrainian list of sponsors of Russia’s war, won’t be added back to that list in the future.
The Ukrainian National Agency of Corruption Prevention’s decision to remove OTP Bank from the list on Monday was, according to foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, a “step in the right direction,” but Hungary needed more guarantees before it would alter its stance toward Ukraine in any international context.
Szijjarto stated that Hungary’s Foreign Ministry has invited Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency to visit Budapest “as soon as possible” to discuss the listing of OTP “so that we can negotiate an agreement that guarantees that no such decision will be taken (again) in the future.”
“If a reassuring agreement is reached there, then we will of course have to consider what steps this justifies on our part,” Szijjarto said at a press conference. OTP continued to conduct business in Russia when Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which resulted in the banking institution paying taxes to the Russian government. In retaliation, Ukraine added OTP to its list of war supporters in May.
Hungary’s response has been to oppose a 500 million euro EU military aid package to Kyiv, stating that it would not do so until OTP was taken off the list. In the hopes that Budapest would remove its veto of the funds, Ukraine’s anti-corruption body temporarily removed the bank from the list last week.
However, Hungarian officials made it clear that the temporary removal was insufficient, so on Monday, the agency completely withdrew the bank from the list. Inquiries regarding whether Szijjarto’s remarks suggested that Hungary would keep opposing the EU aid package even after OTP was removed from the list of war sponsors were sent through email, but the Hungarian Foreign Ministry did not respond.
Since the start of Russia’s extensive invasion, the nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary and Kyiv have fought over a variety of issues.
Although he has never actually voted against them, Orbán, who has maintained links with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has vehemently opposed placing EU sanctions on Moscow, refused to allow Hungary to do so, and has argued against arming Ukraine.
Last week, Orbán expressed skepticism about the likelihood of the EU starting accession talks with Ukraine anytime soon, saying it would be impossible to do so with a country that is at war.
Last week, he informed the Hungarian parliament that his country would “not support Ukraine on any international issue” unless the language rights of a Hungarian minority in western Ukraine were restored.
Szijjarto stated on Wednesday that Hungary also anticipates Ukraine striking four of the OTP’s Hungarian executives and its Russian branch off a list of organizations targeted for sanctions.