VIENNA Ė Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Austria on Tuesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first natural gas deal struck by the erstwhile Soviet Union and the Alpine nation.
The Austrian government, a coalition between the conservative Austrian Peopleís Party (÷VP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FP÷) is seen as one of the Europeanís Unions most sympathetic towards Russia; indeed, it was one of the only member states not to participate in diplomatic sanctions against the Kremlin in the wake of the alleged attempted assassination of a Russian former spy in the United Kingdom.
Austrian vice-chancellor and FP÷ frontman Heinz-Christian Strache, recently advocated that the EUís long list of economic sanctions against Russia, which were put in place after its 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, be scrapped, while chancellor and head of the ÷VP Sebastian Kurz, the EUís youngest national leader at just 31, has said Austria could act as a mediator between Russia and the West.
Putin is to be received with full honors and is scheduled to hold meetings with Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen, before meeting with Kurz.
Russia is the principal provider of natural gas to Austria, a country also used as a point of distribution to much of the rest of western Europe.