In late November, Ukrainian special services detained an alleged Russian agent at one of the border crossings with Hungary. Someone smuggled classified information stored on a USB into an EU country. He kept the device hidden in his anus.
The data carrier contained stolen personal information about the leadership and staff of the Security Service of Ukraine SBU and the intelligence of the Military GUR, as well as sensitive information about the bases, weapons and logistics of the Ukrainian Army. The spy intended to deliver the USB drive to the Russian Embassy in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
Budapest offers good conditions for Russian spies
Journalist Szabolcs Panyi reported on the case for the “Balkan Insight” portal. The man has been handling Russian espionage operations in Hungary for a long time.
He fears Budapest could become a hub for Russian intelligence in the EU. Currently, there are more than 50 accredited diplomats working in the Hungarian capital, compared to just over 20 in Prague, Warsaw and Bratislava. – Many agents use diplomatic camouflage because they enjoy immunity, meaning they cannot be prosecuted. By the authorities of the country that accepts them, the journalist explains.
In addition to employees of the Russian Embassy, employees of the International Investment Bank (IIB) in Hungary, established during the Soviet era, also enjoy immunity. The bank’s headquarters were moved from Moscow to Budapest three years ago. This means that the bank does not have to fear the Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority, criminal investigations or courts.
Already when the transfer of the bank was announced, the Hungarian opposition suspected that the government in Budapest was supporting the expansion of the KGB network. Mikołaj Kosow, head of the IB, came from a family of spies, so she had her reasons. His father was once a KGB resident in Budapest, and his mother was referred to as “one of the most extraordinary spies of the 20th century” by the Russian news agency TASS.
Russian spies have a free hand
After the attack Russia On February 24 of this year, the European Union and NATO countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia) announced that they would withdraw from the bank with shares of the IIB, but Hungary remained in it. Also, from the beginning of the Russian occupation, all EU countries were willing to expel Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover – except Hungary.
Investigative journalist Zabolcs Banyi can point to several instances of Russian intelligence operations in Hungary, which Hungarian authorities have admitted without protest. One example is Bela Kovacs, nicknamed “KGBela”, a former MEP of the right-wing conservative Jobbik party. He was exposed by the Hungarian security office Constitution In April 2014, but not until April 2017, he was charged with spying for Russia. Eight years have passed since the final verdict. This time, Kovacs managed to escape to Moscow, Panyi informs DW.
A hacker at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry
Press investigations by him and his colleagues show that Russian hackers repeatedly penetrated Hungarian information networks and internal communications. M.F.A At least since 2012, and even after the start of the war in Ukraine. The government in Budapest never confirmed the incidents, but the journalist believes that Hungary’s Western allies were well aware that the ministry’s IT systems were contaminated. For this reason, they shared confidential information with the Hungarians only with due care.
Immigration of ethnic Hungarians from Ukraine and the “golden visa regime” have led to significant security risks. The latter provided that foreigners could obtain a five-year Schengen visa by purchasing one. Residential bonds worth PLN 300,000 Euro. In addition, there was a trial fee of 60,000. Euro. The project began in 2013 and was halted four years later under pressure from the European Union.
In cooperation with Molfar, a Ukrainian group that handles military investigations and fact-checking in Eastern Europe, Bani and his colleagues exposed the case of Andriy Naryshkin. The son of Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian foreign intelligence service SVR, came to Budapest with his family on a “golden visa” and could live in the Hungarian capital without any problems.
Contacts up to the premiere
Naryshkin’s apartment was registered as the property of a businessman who was friends with Andal Rogan, the head of the company. First scene Hungarian Viktor Orban. Until 2017, Rogan was responsible for the introduction of the “golden visa” – first as the head of the relevant parliamentary committee, and since 2015 as the head of the Prime Minister’s Office. According to Transparency International, companies close to Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party have earned around €411 million from the marketing of “golden visas”.
Citizenship practices for the Hungarian minority in Ukraine have also led to security problems. Because the restriction was insufficient, many Ukrainian citizens were able to obtain Hungarian citizenship. Some of them don’t even know Hungarian. This gave them unlimited freedom to travel within the Schengen area. In the official government bulletin, one can find many reports about the revocation of Hungarian citizenship from dual-citizen Ukrainians. They may have cheated during the citizenship process. In this way, agents of Russian special services can get free access to Schengen countries.
Dependence on Russia
Bani and his colleagues looked behind the scenes of the close ties between the Orban government and Putin. They concluded that Moscow threatened the Hungarian government, for example, with Russian fossil fuels and common interests in the energy sector, and by expanding the Baks nuclear power plant with Russian technology and Russian assistance. Financing.
“Cooperation in the energy sector, but also the activities of Russian intelligence in Hungary, have historical roots,” Panyi explains. Since the Hungarian economic model and cheap energy are systemic in European supply chains, this cooperation has never been questioned. Instead, it was considered a place for Hungary to do business, and caused all parties in power in Hungary to bet on rapprochement with Russia. In addition, Banyi adds, members of the political and economic elite are often Russian-educated and married or married Russian women. He estimates that this also strengthened Russian influence in Hungary.
Author: Zsolt Bogar
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