"Scandalous”: Ukraine Names OTP Bank as “International Sponsor of War”

  • 15 May 2023 7:27 AM
  • Hungary Matters
"Scandalous”: Ukraine Names OTP Bank as “International Sponsor of War”
It is “scandalous” that Ukraine has placed OTP Bank on its list of “international sponsors of war”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Stockholm on Friday, adding that until that is withdrawn, it will be “very difficult” for the Hungarian government to negotiate about further sanctions.

It is “outrageous” that while Hungary is participating in the programme under which the European Union supports Ukraine with one and a half billion euros per month, the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency has placed the OTP Group on its list of “international sponsors of war” because the financial institution is still present in Russia, the foreign ministry cited Szijjártó as saying, in a statement.

“OTP is Hungary’s biggest bank. OTP has not violated any international laws. Its operations fully comply with all kinds of expectations and legislation. Placing it on the list of international sponsors of war is unacceptable and scandalous,” the minister said on the sidelines of an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

“Therefore I made it clear today that as long as OTP stays on this list, it will be very difficult for us to even enter into negotiations on the eleventh sanctions package, it will be very difficult for us to negotiate economic restrictions that require additional sacrifices,” Szijjártó said.

In a statement on Friday, OTP Bank rejected the accusations of Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency (NAZK), which placed the Hungarian bank on its list of “international sponsors of war” on May 5. OTP emphasised that it condemned all aggression against a sovereign country, including the one committed against Ukraine, and expressed its commitment to supporting Ukrainian citizens and the country’s economy.

In addition to maintaining continuous service and lending activities, OTP has helped Ukraine with humanitarian aid worth a billion forints and provided long-term accommodation and care to hundreds of war refugees in Hungary.

In response to the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency’s argument that OTP Bank plays an important role in the Russian economy, the bank said that it had a market share of 0.17% in Russia.

International banks and other companies with a significantly larger local presence were not included on the NAZK list, which in itself questions the credibility of the decision, OTP notes in the statement.

OTP Bank also dismissed the accusation that it conducted activities in the occupied territories of Ukraine, and said that it operates in full compliance with local and international legislation in all its markets, including sanction regulations.

Accordingly, it duly and immediately terminated all its activities in the occupied territories in 2014. As regards the accusation that OTP Bank provides “preferential loans” to members of the Russian armed forces, OTP emphasised that the Russian Federation stipulates to all financial service providers in a law that those participating in the “special military operation” must be exempt from loan repayment and interest payments until December 31, 2023.

After that date, repayment will continue. OTP Bank does not provide new loans to members of the armed forces either under preferential terms or in any other form, the bank said.

In response to the Ukrainian argument that OTP Bank recognised the “people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk”, OTP stated that — in line with the position of the EU and Hungary — it never recognised the independence of these areas in any form.

Szijjártó: Hungary Committed to Pro-Peace Stance Despite EU's 'Atmosphere of War'

Hungary is committed to its pro-peace stance even though the EU remains dominated by an "atmosphere of war" and most member states want to continue providing military support to Ukraine, the foreign minister said in Stockholm.

Everyone is of the view that European weapons deliveries are having a positive effect on the war, which is why many argue for supplying even more weapons, Péter Szijjártó said on Friday, during a break in an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.

These member states say Ukraine must be given all the support it needs for as long as it needs it, “and unfortunately, this applies primarily to military support”, he said. But Hungary’s position remains clear, he said, emphasising that “we want peace as soon as possible, because every minute this war continues costs more and more lives and poses a very serious threat of escalation.”

An immediate ceasefire and peace talks are needed, followed by a diplomatic settlement that can guarantee long-term peace and security in central Europe and on the entire continent, Szijjártó said.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that under new Ukrainian laws, Hungarian-language schools in the country would no longer be able to operate from September.

“This is an unacceptable situation,” he said, arguing that the ethnic Hungarian community in Ukraine had already had their rights “seriously infringed”, but “this would be such an unprecedented infringement that calls for a European reaction”.

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