Expatica news

Pro-EU Hungarians rally against Russian influence

Thousands of Hungarians rallied in Budapest Monday, chanting “Europe, not Moscow” in support of the EU and against Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom protesters said is too close to Russia.

Orban has been accused by opponents of cosying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has visited Budapest twice in the last three years.

Carrying EU flags, the anti-Moscow slogans rang out among the crowd, estimated by local media at 10,000, as they passed the Russian embassy.

Orban signed a controversial loan deal with Putin in 2014 to finance the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear facility.

The same year, the Hungarian leader also said that rather than liberal democracy he favoured building an “illiberal state” and praised Russia as a model.

Rights groups say Orban has copied some of Putin’s methods by clamping down on independent institutions, nongovernmental organisations and press freedoms.

“In Hungary, a system of fear is being built on the Russian model,” the rally’s organisers Momentum, a political party formed by young activists, said before the march began.

Momentum was set up in March after a signature drive it organised forced Orban to drop Budapest’s bid to host the Olympics in 2024.