Austrian foreign minister under fire for Putin wedding invite

BERLIN — Austria’s Foreign Minister is under fire for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding Saturday, with opposition politicians criticizing the decision as the country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Karin Kneissl, nominated as an independent to the post of foreign minister by the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), will marry businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in the Austrian alps today. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, also from the FPÖ, will be there, while Putin’s team confirmed his attendance Wednesday.

But Socialist MEP Evelyn Regner told Der Standard that the visit marks “a provocation with a European dimension” given Putin’s anti-EU approach, also tweeting that the invitation is “shameful”.

“How should Austria’s EU Presidency fulfil the government’s claim of building bridges and being an honest broker,” said Andreas Schieder, an MP and foreign affairs spokesperson, for the opposition SPÖ. “What contribution do Kurz and Kneissl want to make in the Minsk process to solve the Ukraine crisis, when they celebrate privately with one of the conflicting parties in front of the world public.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkim tweeted that the government in Vienna would be forced to justify that the invitation will not affect Austria’s foreign policy.

Initially, the invitation was billed as a private matter but Austrian media has since reported that working talks will take place on the sidelines of the wedding.

Putin will fly directly from the ceremony in the Styria region of Austria to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s country retreat at Meseeberg north of Berlin on Saturday evening.

There, the two leaders are expected to discuss the conflict in Syria, Ukraine and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

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