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Russia and Belarus asked not to attend Nazi camp ceremony in Austria

The ambassadors of Russia and Belarus have been asked not to attend a ceremony marking the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, the event's organisers said Tuesday.

A picture taken on January 20, 2020 in the Austrian village of Langenstein shows a Polish flag displayed in front of a former crematorium oven at the site of former Gusen concentration camp, that was part of the larger complex around the main camp at Mauthausen, located three kilometres (two miles) away. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
A picture taken on January 20, 2020 in the Austrian village of Langenstein shows a Polish flag displayed in front of a former crematorium oven at the site of former Gusen concentration camp, that was part of the larger complex around the main camp at Mauthausen, located three kilometres (two miles) away. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Their presence at the Mauthausen camp on May 15 would be against the surviving prisoners’ wishes and their belief in peace and freedom, the president of the organising committee Willi Mernyi told local media.

‘Gas and blackmail’: How Russia reported the Austrian Chancellor’s visit

The two ambassadors were sent emails personally, a spokeswoman confirmed to AFP. Mauthausen’s Austrian, international and memorial committees have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with support from Belarus, and called for an immediate end to the war.

The camp in northern Austria was opened by the SS in 1938 for “incorrigible political enemies”.

It held prisoners of war, many of them Soviet and Polish, as well as resistance fighters, common law prisoners, homosexuals and Jews.

Detainees were forced to work in atrocious conditions. Around 200,000 people were sent to the camp and nearly half of them died.

They were gassed, executed, or perished due to hunger or disease.

Mauthausen was liberated by American troops in May 1945.

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UKRAINE

REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?

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