Europe

Hungary far-right politician says not Russian spy

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A Hungarian member of the European Parliament representing the far-right Jobbik party on Thursday denied a newspaper report claiming he is suspected by Hungarian authorities of spying for Russia.

Hungarian prosecutors said they had asked the European Parliament to lift the immunity of Bela Kovacs, but said the reason was classified. Kovacs is third on Jobbik's list for next week's elections for the European Parliament, of which he has been a member since 2010.

"I have never been the member of any secret service, whether Hungarian or foreign," Kovacs told reporters. "I never cooperated with them and they made no attempts to recruit me." The 54-year-old politician, who studied and worked in Russia for many years and speaks five languages, said he would give up his immunity and would like to testify at a hearing of the Hungarian parliament's national security committee to clear his name.

Kovacs is also president of the Alliance of European National Movements, which includes several radical parties from across Europe, but said the group had not direct ties to Russia. "I want to categorically deny all allegations ... that the alliance is under Russian influence or receives Russian financing," Kovacs said.

Jobbik vice president Zoltan Balczo said the aim of the allegations was to discredit the party, which got 20.3 percent of the votes in April's national elections, and prevent it from becoming Hungary's largest opposition group.

Balczo, who blamed "the United States and its European allies" for trying to discredit Jobbik, said having good relations with Russia was "important for Hungary for reasons of national strategy," but denied that the party is a recipient of Russian funds.

Jobbik has been supportive of Russia's recent annexation of Crimea and the efforts by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to gain independence.

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