Hungary stalled the EU’s latest sanctions package against Russia over objection to the sanctioning of Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Earlier this week, the EU agreed on principle on a new sanctions package that includes a Russian oil ban with exemptions for pipeline deliveries to Hungary and other land-locked nations.
EU officials met Wednesday night to finalize the deal and turn it into law, but Hungary insisted that the sanctions against Patriarch Kirill must be dropped. "Agreement is held up because Hungary is objecting to sanctions on Patriarch Kirill," an EU diplomat said, according to Al Jazeera.
More talks were expected to be held later on Wednesday night, but as of early Thursday morning in Brussels, there has been no word of the EU agreeing on the finalized version of the sanctions package.
According to Reuters, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long made his stance on sanctioning the Russian church leader known:
Hungary's opposition to potential EU sanctions against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, "has been known for a long time," Prime Minister Viktor Orban's press chief told state news agency MTI on Thursday.
"We will not allow the inclusion of church leaders in the sanctions list," Orban reiterated this week in a radio interview, stressing that religious freedom must be protected as a "sacred issue."
The sanctions are meant to hurt Russia, but as the EU has been preparing the ban, Moscow has been busy finding other markets and is now shipping more than twice the amount of oil it was before the invasion of Ukraine. More shipments have been going to China and India, and now Asia has surpassed Europe as the top buyer of Russian oil.