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Thousands March For EU, Protest Rising Russian Influence In Hungary

Thousands protested the rising influence of Russia in Hungary on May 1.

Thousands of Hungarians marched across central Budapest on May 1 in a show of support for the European Union, protesting against what they described as a rise in Russian influence under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The rally follows a series of major demonstrations in Budapest in recent weeks, triggered by a new law inspired by Russia that would drive out of Hungary a top university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.

Momentum, an upstart political movement, called for the May Day rally, where an estimated 10,000 protesters chanted "Europe, not Moscow!" as they passed the Russian Embassy. It announced it would run candidates in parliamentary elections next April.

Orban is "driving the nation toward Moscow," party Chairman Andras Fekete-Gyor said. "Instead of the rich, modern, and free Europe, he sets the poor, oppressed, and underdeveloped Russia as the example for our country."

The group gained national prominence with a campaign that torpedoed Orban's bid for Budapest to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Orban, a former critic of Moscow, changed tack after returning to power in a 2010 landslide. In a key speech, he called for transforming Hungary into an "illiberal state," citing Russia and Turkey as templates for success.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters