Putin dances at wedding of Austria’s foreign minister
Karin Kneissl was nominated by the pro-Russia Austrian Freedom Party.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a flying visit to Austria to attend the wedding of the country’s foreign minister on Saturday, before heading to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Austrian authorities imposed tight security measures around the site of the ceremony near the southern border with Slovenia, where foreign minister Karin Kneissl married her partner Wolfgang Meilinger, a businessman.
Kneissl, an independent, was nominated by the pro-Russia Austrian Freedom Party, whose leaders also attended the wedding.
Photos showed Putin dancing with the bride, who was dressed in traditional Austrian costume.
According to Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Putin also took a small Cossack men’s choir along to entertain about 100 guests at the wedding.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that the Russian president spent about an hour at the wedding.
He gave the newlyweds a cold press oil machine, a traditional Russian samovar and a landscape painting that “depicts the place where the groom hails from”, said Peskov.
Peskov said Putin proposed “quite a long toast in German in which he said he was thankful and happy that he got a chance to visit the hospitable Austria”.
Austrian politician Joerg Leichtfried of the opposition Social Democratic Party criticised Kneissl’s decision to invite Putin to the wedding.
He said it called into question Austria’s role as a neutral intermediary in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels are battling government forces.
Austria currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Speaking hours later alongside Merkel before the two leaders held talks at the German government’s guesthouse in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Putin said they would discuss bilateral ties, economic co-operation and Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.
With protesters audible outside the guesthouse, Putin also raised the issue of humanitarian aid and funding for international reconstruction in Syria.
“It’s important to help those areas that the refugees can return to,” he said. “I think it’s in everyone’s interests, including Europe’s.”
Merkel said the talks would also touch on the possibility of establishing a United Nations mission to help bring about peace in Ukraine.