Austria′s vice-chancellor urges end to EU Russia sanctions | News | DW | 03.06.2018
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Austria's vice-chancellor urges end to EU Russia sanctions

The leader of Austria's Freedom Party says he wants to end EU sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the Ukraine crisis. Heinz-Christian Strache says the measures have damaged the Austrian economy.

Heinz-Christian Strache was quoted on Sunday by Austria's Österreich newspaper as saying sanctions against Russia should be ended.

"It is high time to put an end to these exasperating sanctions and normalize political and economic relations with Russia," he said. The EU sanctions against Russia were imposed in an effort to return Crimea to Ukraine and end an ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine.

The remarks by Strache, leader of Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ), come amid a European diplomatic push to resolve the situation in Ukraine. The vice chancellor is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vienna during the week.

Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, is scheduled to attend a summit with his counterparts from France, Russia and Ukraine in Berlin on June 11 to discuss the crisis.

Read more: Western sanctions on Russia: Lots of noise and little impact

Strache, whose pro-Moscow Freedom Party (FPÖ) is junior partner to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's conservatives, has previously spoken out against the sanctions and warned against pushing Russia into the arms of China. Austria's coalition government says it wants to act as a bridge between east and west, while Kurz has stressed its pro-EU stance is secure.

Read more: Make Austria Great Again — the rapid rise of Sebastian Kurz

In 2016, top FPÖ party members signed a 5-year cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party (picture Alliance/dpa/FPÖ Linz)

In 2016, top FPÖ party members signed a five-year cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party

Agreement with Putin's party

Top-ranking FPÖ party members went to Moscow in 2016 to sign a five-year cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party. According to press reports, one of the points described the "raising of younger generations in the spirit of patriotism and work enjoyment." Sergei Zheleznyak, deputy speaker of Russia's lower house — who signed the agreement and who is on the EU sanctions list — praised the party for opposing the EU sanctions.       

Austria will take over the EU's rotating presidency for six months in July.

Read more: 'Putin's friends' in Austria's right-wing FPÖ achieve strong election result

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kw/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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