Concessions to Hungary on sanctions 'not acceptable', Luxembourg's PM says

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FILE PHOTO: Orthodox Christmas service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Hungary's success in removing a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the European Union's latest round of sanctions was "not acceptable," Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on Friday.

The EU on Thursday gave its final approval to a new package of sanctions as punishment for Russia's invasion of Ukraine - including a phased embargo on Russian oil imports - after much wrangling with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government.

Hungary and two other landlocked Central European states secured exemptions for the pipeline imports they rely on, while Budapest also insisted that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a close Putin ally, not be blacklisted despite plans to sanction him.

Hungary's opposition blocked the necessary EU unanimity.

"I have to tell you I'm really upset. I'm sorry to tell you that yesterday we found an agreement about the sanctions because we said to Viktor Orban, 'OK, we take Patriarch Kirill off the list'. This is not acceptable," Bettel said to applause at a conference of the pan-European ALDE group.

"He was on the list and afterwards they threaten to refuse everything because of the presence of Kirill."

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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