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EU passes new sanctions against Russia

The foreign affairs council of the European Union has agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on the sidelines of a council meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Szijjarto said the new sanctions were “basically an update to earlier rules” and did not contain any restrictions concerning energy imports, the foreign ministry quoted him as saying.

Szijjarto said developments in Ukraine reflected that the EU had “miscalculated” its responses, adding that “the latest measures were also based on the earlier approach”. The Hungarian government “did not break unity and did not boycot the agreement though it thinks that the community should strive for peace”, he said.

The package does not include sanctions concerning Russia’s Gazprombank, Szijjarto said, adding that the Hungarian government had “very firmly” indicated earlier that it would not support such measures.

On the subject of European concerns over shrinking gas supplies, Szijjarto said it was “strange” in view of earlier statements suggesting that the western European countries in question had resolved the issue. “The current fright shows something different, that reality has won,” he said, adding that “gas imports are a matter of infrastructure rather than ideology”. “It seems the western part of Europe has not managed to overwrite the laws of physics,” he said.

Hungary’s supplies are uninterrupted, with reserves to cover 26.6 percent of the country’s annual gas consumption, as against the EU average of 15 percent, Szijjarto said, adding that talks were underway to purchase an additional 700 million cubic metres of gas “both from the east and the west”.

Concerning details of the European sanctions, Szijjarto said the community would introduce an embargo on gold, restrict the trade of dual-use products used in both civilian and defence industry, impose further restrictions in public purchases as well as restrictions concerning accounting and consulting services. A further 48 private individuals and 9 organisations have been added to the earlier sanctions list, including a Russian deputy prime minister, several political leaders of members of the Russian Federation, as well as Sberbank. Concerning the latter, the Hungarian government has proposed pushing out the ban taking effect so that the bank could indemnify its customers in Hungary, Szijjarto said.

Participants in the meeting also decided to reallocate another 500 million euros from the community’s Peace Facility to finance weapons for Ukraine, Szijjarto said. Hungary “did not block that decision but it will not change its position that it will not send weapons to Ukraine itself, nor will it allow weapons transports to Ukraine across its territory”, he said.

“Calling an instrument Peace Facility when it is actually used to facilitate weapons transports is a strange contradiction,” Szijjarto said, adding that “peace is the only solution for the current situation”.

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