Strache Scandal in Austria ‘a Trap’ to ‘Blame Russia’, Russian Media Say
Austria’s now former Vice Chancellor Strache had been gotten “drunk” before the sting operation, according to one Russian newspaper.
The Strache Scandal in Austria – in which a Vice Chancellor was secretly taped promising lucrative public contracts to the pretend niece of a Russian oligarch in exchange for funding – is a plot to sour relations with Moscow, according to the interpretations of Russian media.
The Strache Scandal has led to the breakup of the ruling coalition in Austria between the center-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe), and the calling of early elections likely to be held in September.
The scandal erupted after at the end of last week, German media leaked a video showing Austria’s Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache meeting with a bogus Russian investor posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in the Spanish resort of Ibiza back in 2017.
During the meeting, Strache promises public procurement contracts in exchange for campaign funding, and positive media coverage. Strache resigned his post on Saturday but his resignation was not enough to quell the political storm.
Russian media have described Strache himself as “a promising politician”, according to tabloid KP, who fell into a trap designed to feed the West’s “blame Russia” rhetoric.
“This type of trolling will undoubtedly weaken those politicians who call for rapprochement with Russia,” the paper wrote in a commentary, as cited by DW, noting that there was no evidence of illegal transactions by Strache.
“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,” it added.
The Russian government-published newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta cited colleagues of Strache as saying that the then 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.
Liberal business daily Kommersant emphasized 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, commenting further that the release of the video was likely “deliberately planned to keep Strache out of the upcoming European Parliament elections” on May 23-26, 2019.
The paper noted that Strache’s far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) actively supported Austro-Russian relations.
“You cannot draw a Russian link to this clearly ugly incident based on the existing recording,” Russian Senator Oleg 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,” he added.
Neither of the German media outlets that first leaked the Strache video has revealed the source of the footage.
(Banner image: Strache (left) with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in May 2019. Heinz-Christian Strache on Twitter)