The United States has blacklisted a Russian-linked investment bank and three of its executives in Budapest. The sanctions come after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban repeatedly claimed that the United States and its allies were trying to pressure his country into arming Ukraine.
The US Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against 80 individuals and entities linked to Russia. On the list were the Budapest-based International Investment Bank and three of its current or former leaders, including two Russians and one Hungarian.
The International Investment Bank was established in 1970 by several members of the former Warsaw Pact and today is managed by officials from Cuba, Hungary, Mongolia, Russia and Vietnam. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia pulled out of the bank last year after EU sanctions froze most of its funds.
In a statement, the Treasury Department described the bank as an outpost of Russia “intelligence presence in Europe”, and accused of having served “as a mechanism for corruption and illicit financing, including violations of sanctions”.
“Unlike other NATO allies previously engaged with this Russian entity,” US Ambassador David Pressman told reporters in Budapest on Wednesday, “Hungary has dismissed the US government’s concerns about the risks its continued presence poses to the alliance.”
The timing of the sanctions is remarkable, coming a day after Hungary landed another gas contract with Russia. Hungarian and Russian officials also discussed an acceleration of the ongoing expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant by Rosatom, Russa’s national atomic energy agency.
Orban has claims that his country is subject to “constant pressure” of its NATO allies to sever its energy ties with Russia and enter the Ukrainian conflict on the side of kyiv.
Although a member of NATO, Hungary has refused to supply arms to kyiv or to allow weapons to enter Ukraine through its territory. Orban, meanwhile, has refused to back any EU sanctions that would cut him off from Russian gas, oil or nuclear fuel.
“They want to drag us into war by any means possible,” Orban told Swiss magazine Weltwoche last month. “So far we have managed to resist.”
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