The Guardian: Anger as Austria's foreign minister invites Putin to her wedding18 August 2018 | 03:01 | FOCUS News Agency
The Russian president will drop by on Saturday afternoon to raise a glass to Kneissl and her groom, the businessman Wolfgang Meilinger, in a vineyard in Austria’s picturesque Styria region, before flying to Berlin for talks that evening with Angela Merkel.
Described by the Austrian foreign ministry as a “personal visit”, Putin’s brief appearance will be accompanied by the usual security measures for the visit of a foreign state visitor, a spokesman told Der Standard.
“It will be a private celebration and a personal visit. No change will result in terms of Austria’s foreign policy position.”
Kneissl, an independent, owes her appointment as foreign minister to the populist, anti-immigrant Freedom party (FPÖ), the junior party in Austria’s ruling coalition.
The Eurosceptic and openly pro-Russia party has signed a “cooperation agreement” with Putin’s United Russia party, and Kneissl’s close ties to the Russian leader are raising questions in the EU over where Austria’s loyalties lie. The FPÖ has supported Russia’s claim to Crimea and called for the easing of sanctions on Moscow.
The Austrian government was now seen “as the extended arm of the Russian regime in the European Union” and was “gambling away the country’s good reputation”, the Austrian Green MEP Michel Reimon told Der Standard on Thursday.
For Kneissl to invite “the most aggressive foreign adversary of the EU” to a private celebration was “completely unacceptable”, he added, calling for her resignation.
Kneissl’s display of warmth to Putin was met with disbelief in Ukraine, where there were calls for Austria to withdraw from the European commission’s efforts to mediate an end to the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
“It goes without saying: if you invite Vladimir Putin to your wedding, you are not neutral any more,” tweeted Hanna Hopko, a Ukrainian MP and foreign affairs committee member, tagging the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, and the Austrian embassy in Kiev. “From now on, Austria can’t be a mediator in Ukraine. Period.”
Hopko later posted on Facebook in Ukrainian demanding Russia be held to account for domestic human rights abuses, the Skripal nerve agent attack in the UK, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and alleged war crimes in Aleppo, Syria.
A spokesman for Austria’s interior ministry said that Putin would be attending the wedding exclusively as a personal guest of the foreign minister. Matthias Forenbacher said that Kneissl had known the Russian president for 17 years, having first met him at a summit with the then-US president George Bush in Slovenia in July 2001.
Forenbacher couldn’t confirm whether she had since visited Putin in Russia.
Other guests at the wedding will include several members of the Austrian cabinet, including the vice-chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was also likely to attend, Forenbacher said.
Putin will rush from the Austrian wedding to Berlin, where he is expected at 6pm for wide-ranging bilateral talks with Merkel.
“We are sure the timetable will be kept,” the German chancellor’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, assured the media on Friday.
Seibert said the talks would touch on Ukraine, Syria and energy issues, but he refused to be drawn on whether the leaders would discuss the Skripal attack in Salisbury.
“Russia is an international actor without whom the solution of various international problems is unthinkable,” said Seibert. “That’s the value of such meetings.”
© 2018 All rights reserved. Citing Focus Information Agency is mandatory!