Austria's far-right vice chancellor, who quit after apparent dodgy dealings with a bogus Russian investor, was "a promising politician," said one Russian newspaper. Another hit out at the West's "blame Russia" rhetoric.
Russian media on Sunday denounced the sting operation that caught Austria's populist former-Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache on hidden video promising public contracts to a fake Russian backerin return for campaign financing and potential positive media coverage.
Strache resigned on Saturday following explosive video revelations published by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. Russia-based media outlets decried the revelations as "a trap," using the same term the Süddeutsche Zeitung used in the headline of its coverage.
The Russian tabloid KP described Strache as a "promising politician," before emphasizing that there is no evidence of any illegal transactions by the far-right politician.
"This type of trolling will undoubtedly weaken those politicians who call for rapprochement with Russia," the paper wrote in a commentary, adding that "the constant search [by the West] for a Russian link [including over the Trump administration's alleged collusion with the Kremlin] is nothing but a joke that citizens can only laugh about."
The Russian government-published Rossiyskaya Gazeta, meanwhile, cited colleagues of Strache who complained that the former vice-chancellor had been "filled up" with alcohol before being asked about possible illegal activities.
"Behind this provocation are secret services that have secretly recorded everything," it wrote.
Neither of the German media outlets that first showed the Strache video has said how it acquired the footage.
Russian leading liberal business daily Kommersant pointed out that Strache insisted he had met a Latvian, not a Russian, during the video sting operation on the Spanish island of Ibiza a few months before Austria's 2017's parliamentary elections.
"But German media says the opposite," it said in a commentary, adding that the timing of the release of the video was likely "deliberately planned to keep Strache out of the upcoming European Parliament elections" on May 23-26.
Kommersant also emphasized that Strache's far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) actively supported Austro-Russian relations.
Russian senator backs Strache
Meanwhile, Russian Senator Oleg Morozov on Sunday also hit out at the hidden-camera sting, saying it did not prove any connection to Moscow.
"You cannot draw a Russian link to this clearly ugly incident based on the existing recording," Morozov told RIA Novosti state news agency. "This could be a staged provocation. Or some incident to do with corruption that no state may be behind at all."
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday set a September timeline for fresh elections after meeting with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz about the scandal.
Kurz said on Saturday his conservative People's Party (OeVP) could no longer work with the FPÖ following the video revelations.
DW's Moscow Bureau Chief Juri Rescheto contributed to this report.
mm/sms (AFP, dpa)