US envoy in Russia skips key event

Jon Huntsman Jr. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2018
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US envoy in Russia skips key event

  • Vekselberg predicted Washington and Moscow would get past their crisis in relations eventually
  • Russian denies any interference and the Trump White House denies collusion with Moscow

MOSCOW: US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. stayed away from an event on Friday that would have required him to be in the same room as Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian metals tycoon subject to US sanctions.
Huntsman had initially been scheduled to be part of a panel discussion on US-Russian business ties as part of the St. Petersburg investment forum, a Kremlin-backed annual showcase for the Russian economy.
Vekselberg was on the panel of speakers at the session on Friday along with US and Russian business executives, but the ambassador was not there.
Asked why he was absent, the US Embassy in Moscow referred questions to the State Department in Washington. It did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment. Reuters
One of the panelists, Russian foods tycoon David Yakobashvili, said of Huntsman: “Unfortunately he is not here, but I am sure he is here in spirit.” Reuters


Austria FM’s bow to Putin at wedding dance goes viral

Updated 9 min 13 sec ago
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Austria FM’s bow to Putin at wedding dance goes viral

  • Putin was one of around 100 guests at Karin Kneissl’s wedding to a businessman in southeastern Austria
  • The opposition has criticized Kneissl, saying the country’s reputation for political neutrality has been damaged

VIENNA: The Austrian foreign minister’s deep bow to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dance at her wedding made waves Monday, causing more furor for the already-controversial visit.
Putin was one of around 100 guests at Karin Kneissl’s wedding to a businessman in southeastern Austria on Saturday.
Since the private visit was announced last week, the opposition has criticized Kneissl, saying the country’s reputation for political neutrality has been damaged. Austria currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Adding to the fire Monday was a screen grab from a video made by the pro-Kremlin RT television network that shows Kneissl, radiant, bending her knees in a deep curtesy bow in front of Putin at the end of a dance with him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a floral bouquet to Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl during her wedding to entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz, Austria. (AFP)

The photo was widely published in Austrian media on Monday with headlines such as “Kneissl prostrates on her knees in front of Putin.”
“How unprofessional can a foreign minister be — to produce photos that show you kneeling in front of Putin? Even if it’s just a funny courtesy gesture after a dance, one knows that one should not produce such photos,” left-wing essayist Robert Misik said.
Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), who was also a wedding guest, defended Kneissl, saying she had attended the prestigious Vienna dance school Elmayer and knew her manners as the gesture was a tradition after the dance and Putin in turn bowed.
“Dancing wedding diplomacy with politeness, friendliness and good manners, one can’t represent Austria any better than this!” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Though Kneissl is independent, she was nominated for the foreign minister post by Strache’s FPOe, which since 2016 has had a “cooperation pact” with Putin’s United Russia party.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz after talks following the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl with Austrian businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz, southern Austria. (AP)

 

Thomas Schaefer-Elmayer, head of the Vienna dance school Elmayer, reportedly confirmed that the gesture was done at the end of the dance as “a deep compliment.”
After briefly attending the wedding, Putin was accompanied to the airport by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and then headed to Germany for a planned meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Even before the wedding, Austrian opposition politicians had criticized the invitation to Putin, saying it undermined the country’s claim to be an “honest broker” between Europe and Russia, with the Green party calling for Kneissl’s resignation.
Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU, notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries.