Hungary says it's against automatic extension of EU-Russia sanctions

Hungary is opposed to an automatic extension of EU sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday.

"We believe this has to be advised and decided upon at the highest political level," Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, suggesting the decision should be taken by the 28-member bloc's heads of state and government, not by foreign ministers as is typical.

Szijjarto made the comments in Budapest after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has frequently come to the defence of Russia, even as diplomatic ties between the West and Moscow have frayed.

Lavrov also met with Orban and described their conversation as "very constructive."

The European Union has implemented several rounds of restrictive measures in a bid to halt the violence in eastern Ukraine that erupted in 2014.

The EU and United States accuse Russia of supporting pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Moscow denies.

The EU's sanctions targets include close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian state-owned companies.

But the hardest-hitting are economic sanctions against Moscow that meant to hamper Russian imports and Russian banks' access to European capital markets. These are up for renewal in July.

The lifting of these economic measures has been linked to the full implementation of a peace deal for eastern Ukraine.

Previous extensions of the sanctions against Moscow have not been blocked by Hungary.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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