Supplementing the spies working out of the Russian embassy has been the clandestine role of personnel at the International Investment Bank (IIB) in Budapest. Established by the Soviets in 1970 as a bank for the Soviet Comecon, it moved its headquarters to Budapest during Orban’s administration and has been acknowledged as the ‘Russian Spy Bank’. Russia owns 45.4% and Hungary 25.2% of its shares which have become practically worthless due to the current Western sanctions. But the employees have enjoyed diplomatic immunity as well as the liberal travel benefits of the Schengen area visa.
The Orban government has also maintained good relations with the Orthodox Church. Observers have noted that those churches tied to the Russian Patriarch have connections to Moscow’s secret services. Patriarch Kirill’s closest associate moved to Hungary, after Orban refused to join EU sanctions which included the Patriarch. Added to this ‘Kremlin friendliness’ was governmental lack of reaction when Russian hackers attacked Hungary’s Foreign Ministry.
After the war started, EU countries expelled more than 600 Russians in 2022, over 400 of whom have been identified as spies. But the bolstering of Russian intelligence capability in Europe began much earlier. Now the West is playing catch-up. Russia’s main mission has been to destabilize the EU and weaken the unity among NATO members.