Published: Wed, May 22, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Austrian Far-Right Ministers Leave Government Amid 'Russian Video' Scandal

Austrian Far-Right Ministers Leave Government Amid 'Russian Video' Scandal

The FPO, the junior partner in Austria's ruling coalition, had warned earlier in the day that it would do so if Chancellor Sebastian Kurz moved to have the FPO Interior Minister Herbert Kickl sacked.

Kurz's FPOe deputy, Heinz-Christian Strache, stepped down as vice-chancellor and party leader on Saturday after recordings published by German media showed him offering government contracts in return for campaign help to a fake Russian backer in a villa on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza. However, the government has been caught up in a corruption scandal involving the vice chancellor (HC Strache, leader of the FPO) where he and a colleague were caught on video discussing illegal deals with a woman purporting to be the niece of a wealth Russian businessman.

But in an interview with national broadcaster ORF later in the evening, Norbert Hofer, the new head of the Freedom Party, only repeated that its ministers would step down if Kickl were forced out.

Voters across the EU go to the polls on May 23-26, in European Parliament elections widely expected to boost the numbers of far-right and other Eurosceptic MEPs. The leader of the Social Democrats, the second biggest party in parliament, said if technocrats were brought in, it should be for all cabinet posts. "He did not seriously try to secure a parliamentary majority for his proposal", she said in a statement after Kurz and Van der Bellen spoke.

The Freedom Party said it would pull its ministers out of the outgoing government if Kickl is dismissed.

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Kickl accused Kurz of attempting a power grab for his OVP party.

Therefore Kurz said he had "to propose the interior minister's firing to the president". He endorsed a hard line on migration and public finances, and chose to ally with the Freedom Party after winning that year's election.

Strache resigned on Saturday, but condemned the video as a "targeted political assassination". In recent months, those have included a poem in a party newsletter comparing migrants to rats and questions over links to extreme-right groups.

Kickl's party said he had done nothing wrong and sought to portray itself as the victim of a plot.

"It does not concern the Russian Federation, nor its president, nor its government", Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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