Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl on Saturday , in a visit that the opposition says has damaged Austria ’ s reputation for political neutrality .
Putin was one of around 100 guests at Kneissl ’ s wedding to businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in the picturesque village of Gamlitz in southeastern Austria .
The Russian leader was pictured dancing with Kneissl during the festivities . He also brought a Cossack choir to perform for the newlyweds .
Austrian opposition politicians had criticised the invitation to Putin saying it undermined Austria ’ s claim to be an “ honest broker” between Europe and Russia , with the Green party calling for Kneissl ’ s resignation .
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Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU , notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries .
Hundreds of police officers were deployed for the ceremony and the road from nearby Graz airport to Gamlitz was shut in both directions for Putin ’ s arrival and departure .
Putin was accompanied to the airport by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and went straight on to Germany for a planned meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel .
Among the other guests at the wedding were Kurz, of the centre – right People ’ s Party ( OeVP) and Vice -Chancellor Heinz -Christian Strache , of the far – right Freedom Party ( FPOe) .
Kneissl was nominated for the post of foreign minister by the FPOe , which since 2016 has had a “ cooperation pact ” with Putin ’ s United Russia party.
Since last December , the FPOe has been in government in coalition with Kurz ’ s OeVP after a campaign in which both parties ran on an anti – immigration platform .
Putin’ s visit comes amid reports of other Western countries becoming warier of intelligence co -operation with Austria because of suspicion that the FPOe and its Interior Minister Herbert Kickl are trying to exert influence on intelligence agencies .
Unnamed intelligence officials told the Washington Post newspaper that police raids on the BVT domestic intelligence agency in February caused particular concern .
“ The alarms are going off . What happened in Austria reminds me of what autocrats would do, ” one senior European intelligence official told the paper .
( AFP )
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