14:45 Nov. 28, 2016
Hundreds of Russian spies reportedly operating unchallenged in Hungary, turning Budapest into a "Little Moscow"
Financial Times correspondent for Hungary, Romania and west Balkans Andrew Byrne in an article titled ‘Shootout raises fears over Russian ties to Hungary's far right' reveals new evidence of Moscow's efforts to cultivate extremists. According to him, Hungarian far-right militia have multiple ties to Russian secret services.
In late October founder of Hungary's neo-Nazi National Front movement (MNA) Istvan Gyorkos, known for his fascist political views and regular paramilitary drills of his militia, has been taken into custody after the shootout, which left a police officer dead. Raids uncovered MNA's weapons stockpiles far larger and more sophisticated than expected, although their provenance is unknown.
Moreover, Hungary's national security committee has confirmed that the MNA members openly trained with Russian diplomats and men dressed in Russian military intelligence uniforms.
MNA militants (by Szabad Riport)
Emails exchanged between MNA leaders and obtained by Hungarian media reveal a strategy to secure funding from Moscow. Mr Gyorkos also founded Russian-domain website Hidfo.ru, a forum for pro-Russian disinformation on Ukraine's war.
Russia's interest in cultivating groups like the MNA fits into a wider pattern of courting extremist elements as long-term assets, said Andras Dezso, a journalist who has investigated Hungary's far-right movements. "It's not about classical espionage, but rather manipulation of the press, the public and the political system," he said, arguing that groups like the MNA can be used to destabilise politics. "The Russians are using totally different weapons to create an alternative reality. They want to disorient people, to make them feel unsafe."
Analysts question why Hungary's government allowed Russian agents and Hungarian militants to openly co-operate on NATO territory over several years without intervening. Almost uniquely among countries in its neighbourhood, Budapest has not expelled any Russians individuals suspected of espionage in the past six years.
MNA action (by taz.de)
Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany claims hundreds of Russian spies are operating unchallenged in Hungary, turning Budapest into a "Little Moscow".