Global News

Putin pushes for end to 'harmful' sanctions during Austria visit

Putin pushes for end to 'harmful' sanctions during Austria visit

"Both those who initiate these actions and those such measures that we call sanctions are aimed against find them harmful", Putin said in Vienna on Tuesday, claiming that European countries were merely "finding it hard to say so".

"We hope that through more intensive dialogue there will be progress in the relations between the European Union and Russia", Kurz told reporters.

The country's new government of conservatives and populists, headed by the youthful Mr. Kurz, 32, is more pro-Russian than ever due to the presence of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party in the coalition formed last December.

During the visit, the Russian president was given an easy ride by figures from the more liberal end of the spectrum, such as the Austrian president, Alexander van der Bellen, a former leader of the Austrian Green party.

It is his first bilateral trip to a West European country for nearly a year.

After Tuesday's talks, the managers of Russia's state-controlled gas giant Gazprom and Austria's OMV signed an agreement on Russian natural gas supplies through 2040, a deal Putin said highlights the two nations' "significant contribution to energy security in Europe".

On the eve of the visit, which saw the Russian president protected by 800 soldiers, 800 policemen and 17 military vehicles, Putin had to face much tougher questions in an interview with the Austrian television journalist Armin Wolf, an encounter which turned out to be the toughest grilling the Russian president has faced for some years.




The issue of European Union sanctions, imposed on Russia because of its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, will weigh on any talks he has.

Mr Van der Bellen said: "Austria has always strived to contribute to reducing tensions and we will do so now and in the future".

Mr Putin's sixth official visit to the country marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Soviet gas deliveries to the country.

OMV is also among European companies involved in the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would double the amount of gas Russian Federation can send directly to Germany, skirting transit countries such as Ukraine - a project opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members.

Austria, a neutral country that does not belong to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, has long seen itself as a bridge between East and West.

"Under such circumstances, it makes little sense - viewed from a purely economic point of view - to replace Russian gas with American liquefied gas", he told reporters.


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