Khafee

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Germany concerned that Austria may leak secrets to Russia
May 19, 2019




Thomas Haldenwang, head of Germany’s counterintelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), said this week at the Parliamentary Oversight Panel that cooperation with Austria creates significant risks to German intelligence, Welt am Sonntag reported.

The newspaper did not specify how it had obtained the information, but it noted that Haldenwang’s statement was based on the assumption that Austria could misuse and possible even pass on to Russia the information that it receives from partner states such as Germany.

The BfV declined to comment on the report.

Welt am Sonntag published the article amid a scandal involving Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who resigned on 18 May after the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel published a video of him negotiating with a Russian lady in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

The woman in the clip identified herself as Alena Makarova, the niece of a Russian oligarch. In the video, she explains that several Russians are willing to finance Strache’s election campaign in exchange for control of a high-circulation tabloid, the Krone Zeitung, and several state tenders. The video was taken ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2017.

Strache himself insisted he was “the victim of a targeted political attack”. The scandal erupted shortly before elections in European Parliament.

Before the incident, the Krone Zeitung published a story which alleged that a retired Austrian army officer had worked for Russian intelligence since the 1990s. The 70 year-old man in question was taken into custody shortly thereafter, but later released by the court. His attorney later explained that the Austrian did not consider himself a spy, and had not disclosed any state secrets.

The Austrian government responded to the incident with a statement that it will not tolerate Russian espionage in Europe. Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl even canceled her visit to Russia that had been planned for December. In a comment on the situation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Vienna uses “megaphone diplomacy” as opposed to traditional diplomacy.


 

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Austrian government coalition collapses due to scandalous video of Vice-Chancellor with Russian oligarch’s niece
Sunday, May 19, 2019


On Friday evening, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the collapse of the government coalition.

The collapse resulted from the publication of a scandalous video showing Heinz-Christian Strache, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the ultra-right Freedom Party, meeting with an unknown Russian lady and offering her government contracts in exchange for political support.

Strache resigned from his position shortly after the video was published. In the clip, he appears to be severely drunk. He claims that he did not break any laws, and that the video merely documented an “embarrassing drunken deal”. His statements in the recording will be scrutinized by the national prosecution office.

Chancellor Kurz said that he has had a number of difficult situations with his coalition partner, Strache, since 2017. “But after yesterday’s video I must say: enough is enough,” he remarked.

Kurz advised President Alexander Van der Bellen to hold snap parliamentary elections as soon as possible. His speech was met with applause from thousands of protesters outside the Chancellor’s Office.

Two days ago, Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported with reference to the video that in 2017, Strache and Johann Gudenus, another member of the Freedom Party, agreed to give a number of government construction tenders to a Russian oligarch in exchange for financial assistance for the party ahead of elections.

The Austrian politicians met with a Russian woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch on the island of Ibiza in July 2017. Apart from Strache and Gudenus, the latter’s wife was present, and one other German-speaking man.

Austria’s most recent parliamentary elections were held in 2017. At the time, Sebastian Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party won 31.5% of the votes (62 seats), the social democrats won 26.9% (52 seats), and 26% went to the Freedom Party (51 seats). In order to meet the threshold of 92 votes for a majority, the Austrian People’s Party formed a coalition with the Freedom Party.

 

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Austrian Chancellor Kurz ousted in no-confidence vote after video scandal
May 27, 2019
By Ed Adamczyk

Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, seen here in the White House on February 20, was driven from office on Monday after a no-confidence vote by Austria's parliament. File photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

May 27 (UPI) -- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was ousted Monday by a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal engulfing a coalition partner.

In parliamentary debate, delegates of the far-right Freedom Party, a coalition partner of Kurz' Austrian People's Party, were critical of Kurz and unwilling to gamble their party's future on Kurz in the wake of a scandal.

Kurz, 32, became chancellor in December 2017. His party had received 31 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections and a coalition was formed.

German publications circulated a video a week ago in which vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, and party parliamentary leader Johann Gudenus, talked with an unidentified woman at a luxury resort on the Spanish island of Ibiza. She purported to be the niece of a Russian oligarch, seeking to invest in Austria, and during their six-hour meeting Strache told her that he could help her gain access to artificially-inflated state contracts.

The video included footage of Strache drinking heavily. He called the sting operation "a honey trap stage-managed by intelligence agencies," mentioning Jan Bohmermann, an Israeli with links to Austria's center-left Social Democratic Party. Strache resigned from the vice chancellorship last week. To tamp down the effects of the scandal, Kurz called for snap elections in Austria in September.

Kurz' dismissal came Monday, after the Freedom Party ignored its coalition with Kurz' leading party and voted with center and left parties in the no-confidence vote. Before the parliamentary action, Kurz's party won a decisive victory in the weekend's European Parliament elections.

It is the first time since the reconstituted Austrian government was formed after World War II that its leader was driven from office. A caretaker government will be formed to lead the country until the September elections


 

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