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22nd Jul 2018

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Jobbik MEP accused of working for Russia

The Prosecutor’s Office in Hungary has requested the European Parliament to waiver the immunity of far-right Hungarian MEP Bela Kovacs amid allegations he is working for Russia.

Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet, which broke the story on Thursday (15 May), says the prosecutor’s office believes the Jobbik deputy spied on the EU institutions for Moscow.

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The newspaper also alleged that Kovacs' Russian-Austrian dual citizen wife is working for Russian counter-intelligence.

The daily says Kovacs has attracted the interest of the Hungarian intelligence services because he regulalry meets with Russian dipomats in a "conspiratorial manner", and visits Moscow every month.

"I was never a member of either Hungarian or any other foreign intelligence service, I have never worked with them and they have never approached me,” Kovacs said at a press conference on Thursday in Budapest.

He also denied that his wife has been working for the Russian services.

A source in the European Parliament said the "legal affairs committee will draw up a recommendation whether to lift or not the immunity of the MEP concerned and that will have to be approved by the plenary.”

“It won’t be until September before they will have a look at this,” the contact added.

Kovacs was one of several MEPs who observed the Crimea independence referendum in March. He declared the vote legitimate. Most Western governments and observers declared it illegitimate.

An economist who made a fortune while working in Japan and Russia, Kovacs joined Jobbik in 2005 and formed the party's foreign affairs council, which he still chairs.

Media reports in Hungary suggest he is responsible for the early financing of Jobbik and its good relations with Russia.

At the press conference, Kovacs described the news as an engineered scandal aimed at breaking the campaign momentum of Jobbik.

The far-right party obtained 22 percent of the votes in a national election early April, and is set to become the second largest political party in the EU vote on 25 May. Kovacs is third on Jobbik’s list of EP candidates, which guarantees him a seat in the next assembly.

Jobbik has been making gains since they chose a campaign strategy geared toward the centre, partially trying to woo voters disappointed with the ruling Fidesz party.

Magyar Nemzet, the daily that broke the news, is seen as close to the Fidesz government. Meanwhile, Prime minister Viktor Orban is perceived in Europe as reluctant to criticise Russian actions in Ukraine.

This is the second MEP embroiled in allegations concerning Russia.

Tatjana Zdanoka from the Latvian Russian Alliance, who also observed the Crimea referendum, is under investigation by her country’s security authorities.

She is accused of being a Russian agent of influence in Latvia and in the EU assembly - an allegation she denies.

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