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Austria blasted as ‘total disgrace’ for welcoming 18 of Putin’s men despite sanctions | World | News

Austria has come under heavy criticism for granting visas that will allow sanctioned Russian MPs to attend a Vienna meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The issue highlights the delicate balancing act the European country has engaged in while trying to maintain its longstanding position of military neutrality during the war in Ukraine.

The Austrian government has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago but also stressed the need to maintain diplomatic relations with Moscow.

Austria hosts several UN agencies and international organisations such as the OSCE, which was established during the Cold War as a forum for dialogue between East and West. Russia is one of the 57 nations in North America, Europe and Asia that participate in the Vienna-based organisation.

Moscow plans to send delegates to the February 23-24 meeting of the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly, including 18 Russian MPs who are under European Union sanctions.

Among them are Deputy Duma Chairman Pyotr Tolstoy and fellow parliament member Leonid Slutsky.

To make things worse, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has invited the Russian delegates to its annual ball on February 24, the first anniversary of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to Politico, a senior EU diplomat blasted the move as a “total disgrace”.

In a letter to Austria’s chancellor, foreign minister and other officials, 81 OSCE delegates from 20 countries, including France, Canada, Britain, Poland and Ukraine, called upon the Austrian government to prohibit the participation of the sanctioned Russians.

The letter read: “It is important to remember that Russian parliamentarians are an integral part of the power system and complicit in the crimes Russia commits every day in Ukraine.

“They have no place in an institution tasked with promoting sincere dialogue and opposition to the war.”

The US delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly were not among the letter’s signatories. US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter told reporters Friday that the Russian delegates “are not people who deserve to be able to travel to Western countries.”

However, Carpenter added that it was “up to the Austrian government to determine whether they are going to grant visas or not.”

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He suggested the meeting’s postponement “to preserve the integrity of the assembly,” which is a separate body consisting of 323 parliamentarians from the OSCE’s 57 member states,

The Vienna-based OSCE was created during the Cold War as a platform for dialogue between East and West. The group has a wide-ranging mission, including peace, human rights, arms control and other security issues. The invasion of Ukraine has complicated its work, with many Western countries joining Ukraine in protesting Russia’s participation.

After a meeting with members of the assembly and Ukrainian parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk last Tuesday, Cederfelt decided to go ahead with next week’s meeting as planned, given the rules of the assembly which say the group’s winter meeting needs to take place during the first two months of the year.

Nat Parry, a spokesperson for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said it’s “too late” to postpone the gathering.

Lithuania is so far the only other country to have announced publicly that it will boycott the meeting. Other nations are still weighing their options.



*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.