Putin's bid for an EU Trojan Horse

The outcome of Hungarian elections will be crucial to Vladimir Putin. Not only because he needs populist politicians that can be used as Trojan horses in the EU. His business interests also mean he needs to make sure the "right" candidate wins.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Putin's bid for an EU Trojan Horse - NewsMavens
Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban shake hands. Photo: en.kremlin.ru

Why this story matters:

Campaigning for 2018 parliamentary elections hasn't officially started in Hungary but already there is tension in the air. And it's not just domestic parties agitating the atmosphere: Russia is also trying its best to influence the general mood.

Russia is slowly becoming synonymous with interference. Evidence shows that Russia-linked social media accounts spread disinformation during the US presidential election campaign, before the Brexit referendum, and prior to and during the independence referendum in Catalonia, to name but a few cases. The list is long and growing. When Hungarians cast their votes in parliamentary elections next spring, that will surely be added to the list.

The outcome of the elections will be crucial to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Not only because he needs populist politicians which can be used as Trojan horses in the EU. His business interests also mean he needs to make sure the "right" candidate wins.

The Paks II nuclear power plant has Russian money behind it and the contract to extend the plant was awarded to Rosatom, a Russian state-owned firm. It's no question that Putin favors the political status quo in Hungary.

Experts also point out that Putin hopes Viktor Orban, the Hungarian PM, will be vocally opposed to EU sanctions against Russia. One more reason for Putin to push for a win for Fidesz in the general elections.

But, while Russia has so far mainly used Twitter and Facebook for its interference, this is not the case in Hungary. The state media happily features pieces from Russia Today and Sputnik News -- the Kremlin’s international media arms. Representatives of the ruling Fidesz party are also likely to refer to dubious websites. There are 5 months to go, but the Russian "presence" can already be felt.

Details from the story:

  • The Hungarian government has made several recent references to DCLeaks, the website behind prominent US email leaks
  • Some analysts claim DCLeaks bear the hallmarks of Russian intelligence and link it to a Russian government cyberattack campaign targeting U.S. institutions and politicians
  • Last month, Hungarian ruling Fidesz party spokesman Balazs Hidveghi claimed that "Brussels is trapped in the web" of the Hungarian-American billionaire, George Soros. Evidence published by DCLeaks show, Hidveghi said, that the financier forged a close relationship with several decision-makers within the EU
  • Origo, a website close to the Hungarian government, published an article in October (without a byline) in which the author backed up its findings with information published by DCLeaks. According to the piece, George Soros is using his influence to make EU institutions put more pressure on the Hungarian government
  • There have also been worrying links between Hungarian far-right websites and Russia. Although it is hard to prove, some analysts say they might have been funded by Russian sources

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