Austrian government violated neutrality to platform Zelensky – opposition leader
Austrian lawmakers violated the country’s principle of neutrality by allowing Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to address parliament last March while failing to hear the Russian side of the conflict, the head of the opposition Freedom Party of Austria, Herbert Kickl, has argued.
Zelensky addressed Austrian legislators via video link on March 30 of last year, thanking Vienna for its political and humanitarian support. MPs from the Freedom Party walked out during the speech, leaving behind signs on their seats that read “place for neutrality” and “place for peace.”
In an interview with Austrian national broadcaster ORF on Wednesday, Kickl revealed he had confronted the parliament’s president, insisting that the “Austrian National Assembly in no way has to be a stage for parties to war.” The right-wing politician added that “there are enough international organizations that offer opportunities to make appearances, and those are being used by Ukraine avidly.”
According to the Freedom Party leader, if one side is invited to address lawmakers, “then you should actually invite the other side, and also listen to the other side.” Failure to do so, Kickl stressed, “violates this principle of neutrality.”
The politician dismissed allegations that he is a mouthpiece for “Russian propaganda,” emphasizing that his party has repeatedly condemned Russia’s military operation against Ukraine. He added, however, that he is equally critical of Kiev and Moscow.
According to Kickl, Austria should strive to “develop understanding for both sides,” which does not necessarily mean endorsing the agenda of either one. The opposition leader stressed that he wants more neutrality in Europe, as this is the “model of the future.”
Kickl further warned that if nations continue to pursue “bloc” politics, the continent could see a repeat of World War I.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer clarified in mid-December that while his government was generally in favor of offering Ukraine and Moldova a path to EU accession, there should be no “fast-track procedure” to full membership.
A month prior, Vienna’s top diplomat, Alexander Schallenberg, argued that the West “must not be afraid to sit down with the Russians.” He warned against living in “echo chambers in foreign politics” and the potentially “life-threatening” consequences.
Amid faltering Western support, President Zelensky has increasingly applied pressure on his foreign backers for more military and financial aid. At times, the Ukrainian leader has even scolded his benefactors for their supposed failure to do enough.
Commenting on the Ukrainian head of state’s visit to Washington DC to seek more aid last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Zelensky “will again be begging his masters” for resources.
In October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that more and more Western politicians were getting “fed up” with Zelensky.