Putin makes flying visit to Austrian foreign minister's wedding

Russian President Vladimir Putin was a guest at the Austrian foreign minister's wedding on Saturday, in a mo...

Posted: Aug 20, 2018 5:53 AM
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 5:53 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin was a guest at the Austrian foreign minister's wedding on Saturday, in a move that opposition politicians say undermines the European Union's position on Moscow.

Putin dropped in on Karin Kneissl's wedding in a remote area of southern Austria, on his way to a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in neighboring Germany later that day.

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The Russian president was pictured dancing with Kneissl, who was dressed in a traditional "dirndl" dress, in a vineyard in Styria province.

Putin arrived with a bouquet of flowers and even brought a Cossack choir with him to entertain the bride and her groom, the entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger, according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.

Invitation 'symbolic and harmful'

But the invitation came under fire from some Austrian opposition politicians, who said it undermined the EU's foreign policy on Russia. The EU rolled out a raft of sanctions against Russia in 2014, in response to its occupation, and then annexation, of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

Added to this, was the expulsion of Russian diplomats from many EU countries earlier this year. That move was a response to British allegations of Kremlin involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March.

Austria, which is led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People's Party (OVP) in a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), was one of the few EU countries not to follow suit and expel Russian diplomats. Kurz was also photographed at Saturday's wedding. The FPO has a cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party, according to Reuters.

Joerg Leichtfried, from the opposition Social Democrats party, criticized the foreign minister for inviting Putin, particularly given Austria's current presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Leichtfried said in a statement on Twitter it was "all the more symbolic and harmful to court the Russian president in this manner." Leichtfried added that he and other members of parliament had a list of inquiries for the foreign minister over this "working visit."

Foreign Minister Kneissl is not known to have a particularly close friendship with Putin, reported Reuters.

In an earlier version of this story we incorrectly stated Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's political party.

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