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Austria's far-right 'courting' Russia

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Heinz-Christian Strache. File photo: APA/HOCHMUTH
13:58 CET+01:00
The leader of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, is in Moscow for a discussion on “overcoming the crisis in Europe”.

This comes amid speculation as to whether the FPÖ might have received financial support from Russia, after a Moscow strategy paper seen by German media revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been advised to influence Europe through right-wing populist parties including Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD).

The round-table discussion is being chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Strache is accompanied by the chairman of the Vienna FPÖ Johann Gudenus, the party’s foreign policy spokesman Johannes Hübner, and science spokesman Andreas Karlsböck. In a press statement the FPÖ said that the meeting was being attended by politicians, scientists and experts from across Europe.

After France’s far-right National Front party admitted to securing a €9 million Russian bank loan in what appears to be a Kremlin bet on the future of French politics, Austrian newspapers speculated as to whether the FPÖ might also have benefited financially from its open support for Putin. Gudenus immediately denied this.

The national manager for the social democrats, Norbert Darabos, said that he found "the extent to which the FPÖ has recently courted Russia very striking". He called on Strache to speak out, rather than relying on Gudenus, and explain the nature of the “strategic friendship”.

On Tuesday Strache released a statement from Moscow saying "we are confident of our neutrality and do not receive any financial contributions". He added that he was keen to know if the SPÖ was getting any money from the US for its anti-Russian, pro-Nato position.

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