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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sponsors of war”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Stockholm on Friday, adding that until that is withdrawn, it will be “very difficult” for the Hungarian government to negotiate about further sanctions.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.