[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 45 (Tuesday, March 22, 2016)]
[Pages H1502-H1505]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                      PUTIN'S INFLUENCE IN EUROPE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Utah 
(Mr. Stewart) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. STEWART. Mr. Speaker, in the tumult of a Presidential election, a 
lot of important and newsworthy events don't get enough attention.
  One such event last week was the Czech Republic's release of Ali 
Fayyad, a dangerous Hezbollah terrorist who was indicted in 2014 by the 
United States for conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the 
United States.
  The United States had requested Mr. Fayyad's extradition to the 
United States, and the Czech courts had approved that extradition 
request. But the Czech Minister of Justice, who is aligned with 
Vladimir Putin, refused to honor that decision and released this 
  Fayyad has deep ties with the Russian black market for weapons and 
was an adviser to the former President of Ukraine and a close ally of 
Vladimir Putin.
  It appeared at one point that Mr. Fayyad was exchanged for several 
Czech nationals being held hostage in Lebanon, but journalists have 
since shown that the hostage situation was a sham staged by his family 
and defense team.

[[Page H1503]]

  This episode is significant for several reasons. First, Mr. Fayyad's 
presence and influence in Central Europe are yet more evidence--as if 
we needed more--that Iran, through its proxies like Hezbollah, has 
tentacles throughout world.
  More importantly, the event demonstrates Vladimir Putin's increasing 
influence with an important member of NATO. And it is not just the 
Czech Republic.
  This is a trend, and it is more concerning. Mr. Putin appears to be 
quietly undermining NATO by leveraging his cronies in influential 
positions in a number of European nations.
  Several months ago I asked the Congressional Research Service to look 
into the connections between Putin and high-ranking officials in 
Europe, particularly NATO members. The findings are alarming.
  The report tracks pro-Russian rhetoric and actions of leaders in the 
Czech Republic and Slovakia and Hungary as well as the increasingly 
evident ideological link between Europe's far-right parties and the 
leadership of Russia.

                              {time}  1045

  Mr. Speaker, though I won't read the entire report at this time, I 
will include it in the Record.
  I say all this, recognizing that Russia is a much more proximate 
threat to our European allies than they are to us. It would be foolish 
not to acknowledge that European leaders are in a different position 
than we are. The democratic institutions that we take for granted are 
still fragile in many of these countries, and Putin knows that. 
However, what makes it all the more important is the fact that we, as 
the world's superpower, do more than offer simple condemnations of 
Putin's actions.
  Both the House and the Senate held hearings last year exploring 
Russian propaganda efforts. This was a good start, but now we need to 
dig deeper to understand all of the levels of Russian pressure, 
including agents of Russian influence who occupy high political offices 
and own national and regional media outlets.
  More than anything, we need the President to get off of the sidelines 
and show that he is serious about countering Putin. That could start 
with a serious effort to determine who cooperated with Russia in 
releasing Mr. Fayyad, and then issue targeted sanctions on those 
  Mr. Fayyad is likely to continue plotting to harm the U.S., and his 
release isn't a simple oversight that we should ignore.


                                                 December 8, 2015.
     To: Representative Chris Stewart.
     Subject: Pro-Russia Viewpoints Among Selected Leaders in 
         Central and Eastern Europe.

       This memorandum responds to your request for information 
     about Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe, with a 
     focus on selected political leaders. It provides additional 
     information about Russian influence through ties with 
     European far-right parties. Please contact me if you have 
     questions or would like additional information.
       One of the main ways analysts have to gauge Russian 
     influence in Central and Eastern Europe is by looking at the 
     reactions of regional political leaders to the conflict in 
     Ukraine and European Union (EU) debates about Ukraine-related 
     sanctions against Russia. While some patterns may be 
     discerned, it is difficult to assess the degree to which 
     various data points are directly attributable to Russian 
     influence, as opposed to a variety of other factors and 
     interests. Economic relationships and energy ties can be 
     expressed in monetary amounts, but less straightforward is 
     how to translate such figures into identifiable political and 
     policy influence. Other aspects of Russian influence can be 
     even more difficult to quantify. Russian involvement in 
     political and corporate dealings is not always a transparent 
     process that is reflected in available open source 
     information, frequently making for some degree of speculation 
     when seeking to reach conclusions about the motivations 
     driving various statements and actions.
       Overall, attitudes toward Russia in Central and Eastern 
     Europe are colored by historical experiences, geographic 
     proximity, economic ties, and energy dependence. Many 
     officials and analysts in Central and Eastern Europe relate 
     that they have not been especially surprised by Russia's 
     actions in Ukraine and assert that their past efforts to 
     convey concerns about President Putin's revanchist ambitions 
     went largely unheeded in the United States and Western 
     Europe. In light of European history, especially the Soviet 
     Union's domination of the region during the Communist era, 
     Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe is not a new 
     phenomenon brought on in relation to the Ukraine crisis. In 
     2009, for example, analysts alleged that Czech President 
     Vaclav Klaus, influenced by Moscow, worked to destabilize the 
     Czech government and undermine passage of the EU's Lisbon 
       As the Visegrad Four (V4) group, Poland, the Czech 
     Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary have attempted to engage in 
     regional cooperation with one another on a range of issues, 
     and to form common positions on foreign policy and EU 
     matters. The countries have struggled to find any group 
     coherence with regard to Russia and the conflict in Ukraine, 
     however. Poland's consistent and forceful advocacy of a 
     robust response to Russia's actions made it something of an 
     outlier in Central and Eastern Europe. Whether owing to a 
     desire to preserve energy and economic ties with Russia, 
     concerns about provoking Russia further, or the perception 
     that Russia's actions in Ukraine are distant and do not pose 
     a direct threat to their countries, the governments of the 
     Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary have tended to be more 
     ambiguous and reserved on the topic. Some observers note that 
     at times the leaders of these countries appear to have 
     prioritized short-term national economic interests over wider 
     strategic concerns.
       Nevertheless, while many in the V4 countries and elsewhere 
     in Europe may remain skeptical about the wisdom and utility 
     of sanctions as an attempt to deter Russia's actions in 
     Ukraine, the measures have been adopted by the unanimous 
     agreement of all 28 EU member states. Observers assert that 
     this consensus was based on a common assessment by the member 
     state governments that sending a strong message to Russia's 
     leadership through meaningful sanctions was a political 
     imperative outweighing economic disruption and discomfort. 
     Observers further note that action must at times be viewed 
     separately from rhetoric and political ``doublespeak'' that 
     may be aimed at a domestic audience.
     The Czech Republic
       Opinions on Russia and the Ukraine crisis among Czech 
     political elites are fractured. At one end of the spectrum is 
     the pro-Kremlin position of Czech President Milos Zeman, 
     which appears to accept Russia's claims about the conflict 
     and opposes all sanctions. In June 2014, Zeman stated, ``I 
     cannot see any reason why to isolate the Russian Federation 
     from the European Union, why to speak about sanctions, 
     blockade, and embargo. There is a chance of increasing the 
     level of our cooperation. . .'' At the other end of the 
     spectrum is the position of the center-right opposition TOP 
     09 party, led by former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, 
     which has advocated tougher sanctions and providing military 
     aid to Ukraine.
       In between them is the view characterized by Prime Minister 
     Bohuslav Sobotka of the center-left Social Democratic Party, 
     who accepted sanctions but sought exemptions based on 
     economic interests and called for early removal of the 
     measures. Following the adoption of wider EU sanctions in 
     July 2014, Sobotka stated, ``Neither for the European Union, 
     nor for Russia, is it favorable to get into a drawn-out trade 
     war and that some new economic and political Iron Curtain 
     appears on Ukraine's eastern border.'' There is also a 
     multilateralist view characterized by Foreign Minister 
     Lubomir Zaoralek, who argued that the Czech Republic should 
     belong to the EU mainstream and support the sanctions as an 
     efficient tool.
       The Czech foreign and defense ministries ``view Russia as a 
     country which is destabilising the European security 
     architecture and . . . making attempts to revise the 
     international order,'' whereas ``the minister for industry 
     and trade sees Russia as a key non-EU economic partner for 
     the Czech Republic, with whom cooperation needs to be 
     enhanced.'' Prime Minister Sobotka has attempted to balance 
     these competing viewpoints, but the splits have left the 
     Czech government without a clear stance on Russia.
       Two-thirds of the natural gas consumed in the Czech 
     Republic comes from Russia, accounting for nearly 15% of the 
     country's primary energy supply. In the context of sanctions 
     and Russia's economic slowdown, the Czech economy has been 
     negatively affected by a substantial decline in Russian 
     imports of Czech goods and reduced numbers of Russian 
     tourists visiting the Czech Republic. Russia accounts for 
     only 4% of Czech exports and 0.3% of foreign investment in 
     the Czech Republic, however. By contrast, over 80% of Czech 
     exports go to EU countries, and the Czech economy is tied 
     most closely to Germany.
       President Zeman and Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister 
     Andrej Babis, in particular, have been recently cited by one 
     prominent commentator as leading politicians who ``frequently 
     echo or repeat Russian slogans.'' Zeman previously served as 
     prime minister from 1998-2002 at the head of the Social 
     Democratic Party, which he left in 2007, before he became the 
     Czech Republic's first popularly elected president in 2013 
     (the president was formerly chosen by parliament). The powers 
     of the Czech presidency are largely ceremonial, and the power 
     to lead the government falls squarely on the prime minister. 
     Nevertheless, the president is the commander-in-chief of the 
     armed forces, exerts an influence on foreign policy, and 
     makes a number of formal appointments to

[[Page H1504]]

     the central bank and judiciary. Some analysts assert that 
     Zeman has sought to push the boundaries of his powers to 
     influence government policy and legislation.
       Although Zeman has also been strongly pro-EU and supported 
     close security ties with the United States through NATO, his 
     history of outspoken statements has labeled him as one of the 
     most pro-Russian leaders in Europe. He has condemned the EU 
     sanctions against Russia, strongly criticized the Ukrainian 
     government's approach to the conflict, and termed the 
     conflict in Ukraine a ``civil war.'' Analysts assert that 
     such statements have countered and undermined the Czech 
     government and foreign ministry and threatened to alienate 
     Czech allies in NATO, including the United States, and its 
     partners in the EU.
       In May 2015, Zeman, who speaks fluent Russian, defied calls 
     for the diplomatic isolation of Russia by joining Slovak 
     Prime Minister Fico as one of the few European leaders 
     attending the 70th anniversary commemoration of the end of 
     World War II in Moscow. Opposition leaders asserted that the 
     visit seemed ``choreographed by Kremlin propagandists,'' with 
     President Putin commenting, ``I want to say that it pleases 
     us that there are still leaders in Europe who are able to 
     express their opinion, and who follow an independent 
     political line.''
       While some observers maintain that Zeman is on balance an 
     outspoken personality who is not afraid to speak his mind, 
     others point to his close ties with businessmen connected to 
     Russia as a potential source of influence. Martin Nejedly, 
     the head of Russian energy company Lukoil's Czech subsidiary, 
     and Miroslav Slouf, a lobbyist for Lukoil, reportedly 
     financed much of Zeman's presidential campaign, were part of 
     his campaign team, and remain close advisers. Zeman has also 
     previously asserted that he is a ``long-time friend'' of 
     Vladimir Yakunin, a former KGB agent who was head of Russian 
     Railways and a close associate and ally of President Putin 
     until his retirement earlier this year. Yakunin was included 
     on the list of Russian officials placed under U.S. sanctions 
     following the annexation of Crimea.
       Andrej Babis is reportedly the Czech Republic's second-
     richest man, worth an estimated $2.4 billion. Babis, who is 
     of Slovak origin, founded the ANO party (ANO stands for 
     Action of Dissatisfied Citizens in Czech, although ``ano'' 
     also means ``yes'' in Czech) in 2011, initially as a personal 
     political vehicle. Promoting populist, anti-corruption 
     messages, ANO came in second place in the 2013 Czech 
     election, and Babis became deputy prime minister and finance 
     minister in a coalition government led by Prime Minister 
     Sobotka's Social Democrats. Babis has continued to position 
     himself and his party as outsiders to the Czech political 
     establishment, and as a ``movement'' that eludes left-right 
     characterization rather than a political party (ANO belongs 
     to the centrist-liberal Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, 
     ALDE, in the European Parliament). With recent polls showing 
     ANO to be the Czech Republic's most popular party and Babis 
     its most trusted politician, he is considered a leading 
     possibility for prime minister following the 2017 election.
       The intersection between Babis' continued business 
     interests and his political career has been controversial. In 
     the early 1990s, while an executive with the state-owned 
     trading company Petrimex, Babis took over ownership and 
     control of a newly founded Petrimex subsidiary, Agrofert, 
     using a still-undisclosed source of foreign financing 
     channeled through Switzerland. Reportedly aided by the use of 
     political connections to acquire state-owned enterprises 
     using state-guaranteed loans that were not always paid back, 
     Babis grew Agrofert into an agriculture, food, and chemical 
     giant that is now the Czech Republic's fourth-largest company 
     and has over 200 subsidiaries of its own. Babis has been 
     accused of using his government position to benefit his 
     private business interests, for example in a May 2015 
     parliamentary vote to continue state subsidies of biofuels, a 
     policy of strong benefit to Agrofert.
       In 2013, Agrofert acquired the MAFRA media group, housing 
     two of the country's most widely read newspapers, most 
     popular radio station, and a leading television channel. 
     Observers assert that these media outlets have subsequently 
     avoided any criticism of Babis, promoted his activities, and 
     increased criticism of political opponents. Some analysts 
     have argued that Babis combination of political, economic, 
     and media power threatens the stability of the Czech 
     Republic's democratic institutions. In March 2015, Prime 
     Minister Sobotka told his party's congress:
       ``The problem is, however, that Andrej Babis, chairman of 
     our coalition partner, did not give up his economic and media 
     influence after he became deputy prime minister and finance 
     minister. He now concentrates political, economic and media 
     power whose extent has been unprecedented in this country 
     since 1989. He is at permanent risk of conflict of 
       Babis' past has also caused controversy. The Czech Republic 
     maintains a ``lustration law'' passed in 1991 to keep former 
     high-level communists and secret police collaborators out of 
     top government posts. Babis has been waging a court battle 
     with Slovakia's Nation's Memory Institute, which oversees 
     communist-era secret police files. With Babis' secret police 
     file having gone missing long ago, the institute presented a 
     case in 2013 piecing together files it asserted as 
     circumstantial evidence that Babis was an informant code 
     named ``Bures.'' In June 2014, a Slovak judge ruled in favor 
     of removing Babis from the list of secret police 
     collaborators after two former agents testified in his 
     defense, finding there was not sufficiently clear documentary 
     evidence of deliberate collaboration. The institute is 
     reportedly continuing the investigation, however, after an 
     appeals court ruled the agents' testimony inadmissible. 
     Allegations of Babis' ties to communist-era security and 
     intelligence agencies are additionally fueled by his close 
     association with Agrofert board chairman Libor Siroky, a 
     former member of a Czechoslovak secret police unit that had 
     close ties with the KGB.
       Babis has repeatedly criticized the EU sanctions against 
     Russia, and has been variously quoted stating that NATO 
     ``cannot stay on this idea that Russia is the biggest 
     problem,'' ``Ukraine is not ready for the European Union and 
     Ukraine was always under the influence of Russia,'' and, with 
     regard to responsibility for Crimea and the conflict in 
     Ukraine, ``What is true or not true, who knows?'' Babis has 
     asserted that such skepticism is a legitimate part of the 
     European debate and that he and his party are strongly pro-
     NATO and pro-EU, refuting allegations that he is ``pro-
     Russian'' or has secretive ties to Russia. Nevertheless, with 
     Babis considered a possible future prime minister of the 
     Czech Republic, his oligarchic profile and communist-era 
     past, combined with his statements on sanctions and the 
     Ukraine crisis, have caused speculation and concern about 
     possible Russian connections and influence.
       Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has been an outspoken 
     critic of EU sanctions against Russia and has pursued cordial 
     relations with Moscow during his time in office. Fico has 
     been prime minister since 2012, and previously from 2006-
     2010, at the head of the center-left Direction-Social 
     Democracy party (SMERSD). Fico (with Czech President Zeman) 
     was one of only two European leaders to attend events in 
     Moscow in May 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 
     end of World War II, and returned to Moscow in June 2015 with 
     a government delegation to discuss economic and energy ties. 
     Analysts and commentators asserted that these visits played 
     into Russian propaganda by allowing the Kremlin to show it 
     has partners in Europe who are inclined toward cooperation, 
     undermining U.S. and European attempts to portray Russia as 
     diplomatically isolated.
       Slovakia is one of the EU countries most exposed 
     economically to Russia: Slovakia depends on Russia for 98% of 
     the natural gas it consumes (accounting for over 27% of the 
     country's primary energy supply), imports oil and nuclear 
     fuel from Russia, and its state budget relies to a 
     significant extent on revenue from transit fees associated 
     with Russian gas (via Ukraine). Slovakia is the main conduit 
     for Russian gas to Europe. In September 2014, Slovakia began 
     providing gas supplies to Ukraine, leading Russia to cut gas 
     flows to Slovakia by a reported 50% the following month. The 
     Slovak military also remains heavily dependent on Russian 
     armaments. At the same time, Russia accounts for only 3-4% of 
     Slovakia's exports, with the vast majority going to other EU 
       Fico drew particular attention in June 2014 when he 
     compared the idea of U.S. and NATO troops being stationed in 
     Slovakia to the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia: 
     ``I cannot imagine that there would be foreign soldiers on 
     our territory in the form of some bases...Slovakia has its 
     historical experience with participation of foreign troops. 
     Let us remember the 1968 invasion. Therefore this topic is 
     extraordinarily sensitive to us.''
       Analysts assert that Slovak attitudes toward Russia are a 
     complicated mixture of interests and emotions that make it 
     hard to understand and predict Slovak policy toward Russia. 
     Some analysts perceive Fico's Russia policy as an attempt to 
     balance the competing imperatives of relations with NATO and 
     the EU with Slovakia's energy and economic relationship with 
     Russia, while attempting to appeal to public opinion, 
     business interests, and a Russophile wing of his party. For 
     example, Fico has criticized EU sanctions but not blocked 
     them, and he strongly criticized Ukrainian measures that have 
     threatened the flow of gas, but also provided ``reverse 
     flow'' gas supplies to Ukraine. Moscow opposes the ``reverse 
     flow'' of gas from Europe back to Ukraine and considers it 
       Overall, national economic interests appear to be paramount 
     in Fico's approach. Slovakia did not block the expansion of 
     EU sanctions in July 2014 after securing exemptions for 
     sectors important to its economy (such as the export of 
     automobiles to Russia), but Fico has maintained that his 
     government might ``reject certain sanctions that would hurt 
     national interests.'' Following the adoption of the wider EU 
     sanctions and the announcement of Russia's retaliatory 
     measures, Fico stated, ``Why should we jeopardize the EU 
     economy that begins to grow? If there is a crisis situation, 
     it should be solved by other means than meaningless 
     sanctions. Who profits from the EU economy decreasing, 
     Russia's economy having trouble, and Ukraine economically on 
     its knees?''
       Alongside Hungary's commitment to NATO and a close security 
     partnership with

[[Page H1505]]

     the United States, the government of Prime Minister Viktor 
     Orban has emphasized that it has other foreign policy 
     interests, including building closer relations with Russia. 
     Some analysts assert that the Hungarian government appears to 
     be the most ``pro-Russian'' government of the NATO and EU 
     countries. Although Hungary is still a democracy and Russia 
     is not, ideological similarities between Prime Minister Orban 
     and President Putin contribute to cordial relations to a 
     certain extent: both leaders have been organizing their 
     respective states in contrast to the ``liberal, Western 
     model,'' with Orban naming Russia (along with Singapore, 
     China, India, and Turkey) in a July 2014 speech as the type 
     of state model likely to be successful in the future. In 
     addition, Putin's doctrine of ``protecting'' ethnic Russian 
     populations that live outside the borders of Russia closely 
     evokes the nationalist view in Hungary of ethnic Hungarian 
     minorities that live outside the borders of the country. 
     According to some Western observers, Hungary has played an 
     unhelpful role in the Ukraine crisis by advocating greater 
     autonomy for a region of western Ukraine inhabited by 
     approximately 150,000 ethnic Hungarians. Breaking with 
     European attempts to portray Russia as diplomatically 
     isolated, Orban hosted Putin in a state visit in February 
     2015. Orban has been prime minister since 2010, and 
     previously from 1998-2002, at the head of the conservative 
     Fidesz party.
       Hungary has considerable ties to Russia in the energy 
     sector. Russia provides over 76% of the natural gas consumed 
     in Hungary, accounting for one quarter of the country's 
     primary energy supply, and Hungary was a strong supporter of 
     Gazprom's now-cancelled South Stream pipeline that would have 
     crossed Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Slovenia (bypassing 
     Ukraine) to reach Austria and Italy. Russia also supplies the 
     fuel for Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant, which provides 
     about 40% of the country's electricity. Under a controversial 
     deal reached in early 2014, Russia will loan Hungary =10 
     billion to finance the construction by Russia's state-
     owned Rosatom of two new units at the Paks plant.
       Although it joined its EU partners in condemning the 
     annexation of Crimea as illegal, and signed on to the 
     multiple rounds of sanctions imposed against Russia by the 
     EU, Hungary has been among the countries most reluctant to 
     impose sanctions in response to Russia's actions in the 
     Ukraine conflict. In an August 2014 interview, just two weeks 
     after the adoption of expanded sectoral EU sanctions and one 
     week after the announcement of retaliatory Russian measures 
     against European food products, Prime Minister Orban called 
     for a re-think of the EU's sanctions, stating, ``The 
     sanctions policy pursued by the West, that is, ourselves, a 
     necessary consequence of which has been what the Russians are 
     doing, causes more harm to us than to Russia . . . In 
     politics, this is called shooting oneself in the foot.'' 
     Although Russia is Hungary's largest non-EU trading partner, 
     with Hungarian exports to Russia represent less than 3% of 
     Hungary's total exports. The Hungarian economy is tied much 
     more closely to the German economy.
     Russia and European Far-Right Parties
       In recent years, there has been an increasingly evident 
     ideological link between European far-right parties and the 
     leadership of Russia. Far-right parties in V4 countries that 
     now take openly pro-Russia positions include: Jobbik in 
     Hungary; the Slovak National Party (SNS) and People's Party 
     Our Slovakia (L'SNS); the Czech Workers' Party of Social 
     Justice (DSSS); Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland (SRP) 
     and Polish Falanga.
       Elsewhere in Europe, pro-Russia positions are held by: 
     France's National Front (FN); Italy's Lega Nord and the New 
     Force party in Italy; the National Democratic Party of 
     Germany (NPD); the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO); the 
     Flemish Interest (VB) party in Belgium; the Order and Justice 
     (TT) party in Lithuania; Golden Dawn in Greece; the 
     Nationalist Party of Bulgaria (NPB) and Bulgaria's Ataka 
     Party; and the British National Party (BNP).
       While many of these parties remain well on the fringes of 
     their countries' political scene, Jobbik, FPO, FN, Golden 
     Dawn, Lega Nord and TT have had significant electoral 
     successes in winning seats in national parliaments and the 
     European Parliament.
       Analysts assert that supporting far-right parties serves as 
     a way for Russia to work against European unity. Among other 
     elements of far-right ideology (typically including some 
     combination of extreme nationalism, ``law and order'' and the 
     preservation of ``traditional'' conservative or family 
     values, and anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, or anti-Islam 
     sentiments), most of these parties tend to be anti-
     establishment and anti-EU. Some can be characterized as anti-
     NATO/U.S. or isolationist, and some focus on problems with 
     neighboring countries. Jobbik, for example, in addition to 
     promoting strongly anti-Roma, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and 
     anti-Western stances, promotes the idea that Slovakia and 
     Romania are enemies of Hungary due to the ethnic Hungarian 
     minorities living across the border in those countries.
       Although direct evidence of Russian financial support for 
     far-right parties remains for the most part difficult to 
     identify, there is a widespread belief that Russia has 
     covertly funneled money to parties such as the FN and Jobbik. 
     In November 2014, news outlets reported the discovery that 
     the FN had received a potentially illegal =9 million loan 
     from a Russian bank with close ties to President Putin. 
     Jobbik has also long been under suspicion of receiving 
     Russian (and Iranian) money, and the party's finances have 
     been questioned in the Hungarian Parliament and investigated 
     by the Hungarian government. After publishing an annual 
     budget of approximately $10,000 per year for 2004-2008, 
     Jobbik ran a well-financed campaign in the 2009 European 
     Parliament election and reportedly spent over $100,000 in the 
     2010 national election, when it won nearly 16% of the vote. 
     Analysts argued that the sudden increase in funding could not 
     have been due to domestic contributions. As Jobbik began 
     running a nationwide party operation, it also abandoned its 
     previous anti-Russian rhetoric to advocate both good 
     relations with Russia and Hungary leaving the EU to join 
     Russia's Eurasian Union. Jobbik now receives a state 
     allowance allotted to parties in parliament and has an 
     official budget of over $2.3 million. Suspicions of 
     additional private financing from abroad persist, however. A 
     potentially key figure in Jobbik's ties to Moscow is Bela 
     Kovacs, a Jobbik Member of the European Parliament who played 
     a central role in the party's rise in 2009 and has been a 
     vocal supporter of Russia in the European Parliament. In 
     October 2015, the European Parliament granted a request by 
     the Hungarian government to lift Kovacs' immunity from arrest 
     in order to face allegations of spying for Russia.
       Russian support for far-right parties is not merely 
     financial. The Russian government has also been proactive in 
     offering organizational expertise, political know-how, and 
     media assistance to parties on Europe's far-right. Russian 
     support has reportedly included establishing and coordinating 
     pro-Russian parties, non-governmental civil organizations, 
     and think tanks, and providing support to friendly media 
     outlets. Russian diplomacy also offers far-right parties 
     access to political networks, including by sponsoring forums 
     and conferences that develop and coordinate national 
     doctrines and policies and encourage the formation of party 
     groups or families. To some extent, analysts attribute ties 
     between a number of European far-right parties and parallels 
     in the policies of parties in a range of countries to this 
     type of Russian-sponsored network-building.