Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Opinion

Hungary's pro-Kremlin far right is a regional security threat

  • Jobbik, Hungarian main opposition party, is the epicentre of the country's Hungarian pro-Russian extreme-right scene. (Photo: Leigh Phillips)

The murder of a Hungarian policeman by an extreme-right paramilitary leader in October has shed light on the continuing radicalisation and destabilisation of central and eastern Europe by the Kremlin.

The Hungarian National Front (MNA) was dissolved after its leader Istvan Gyorkos shot the officer as his house was being searched on 26 October.

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The neo-Nazi group’s relationship with Russian military intelligence members, which dates back to 2012, came to light during the murder investigation.

It emerged that Russian foreign military intelligence (GRU) disguised as diplomats joined MNA members in military-style exercises. Yet the Hungarian government has still not asked the Russian ambassador to explain.

MNA is one of the most radical elements in a larger Hungarian pro-Russian extreme-right scene, of which Jobbik, the main opposition party, is the epicentre.

MNA and Jobbik have no direct link, but many other extremist organisations have evolved around the party.

Groups like the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM), the Army of Outlaws (Betyarsereg), the Hungarian Self-Defence Movement (MOM) or the paramilitary organisation Wolves (Farkasok) all belong to Jobbik's sphere through personal and underground connections. They also share a pro-Russian stance.

In its efforts to become a mainstream party, Jobbik is going to great lengths to publicly distance itself from these groups.

But some connections are difficult for the party to shake.

The Hungarian Guard, for example, was set up as Jobbik's military wing in 2007 by, among others, current party leader Gabor Vona. It has since been banned for infringing on the rights of minorities.

The most awkward connections are with the white supremacist, anti-Semitic Army of Outlaws. The group is vocal about the use of physical force, mainly against Roma, and organises anti-refugee patrols in the border area.

Although Jobbik distances itself from the group, the party's current vice president, Laszlo Toroczkai, established both the Army of Outlaws and HVIM.

In the wider extremist scene, former Jobbik MP Gyorgy Zagyva is also a former HVIM leader.

Zsolt Der, an assistant to the Jobbik-affiliated vice president of the National Assembly, helps to train the paramilitary organisation Wolves and is a member of the Army of Outlaws.

He has boasted about being invited by pro-Russian separatists to fight in eastern Ukraine, but he declined because of his parliament job.

Jobbik connections run throughout these groups, as do pro-Russian sympathies.

Hungary's intelligence service has accused Jobbik’s former foreign policy cabinet chief, Bela Kovacs, of spying for Russia, although no investigation has been launched.

From a regional perspective, the migration crisis has helped Hungarian far-right groups to boost contacts with organisations in other countries, notably Slovakia's pro-Russian People’s Party-Our Slovakia (LSNS), which joined HVIM on an anti-refugee demonstration.

'Nihilistic' and 'decadent' West

The ultimate goal for many of these far-right groups is to form a pro-Russian geopolitical platform, opposed to the European Union and Nato.

They agree with Putin's characterisation of the “nihilistic” and “decadent” West contrasted with Christian-conservative Russia.

Hungarian extreme-right groups support the Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, allying with pro-Russian separatists to protect the Hungarian minority in Ukraine and in return receive support for their fight against Western liberal values.

These actors commit violent acts with the support of Russian secret services or separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian connections of extreme-right movements and their dedication to the Putinist ideology threaten the stability of Hungary and the entire region, which the Hungarian government should take seriously.

Edit Zgut is analyst at the Budapest-based think-tank Political Capital.

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