Arrival in Vienna of six Russian parliamentarians, including five European under sanctions, is controversial at OSCE

Austria has granted visas to the six elected officials to participate in the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is the first time since the start of the invasion of Ukraine that members of Duma and the Russian Senate have been able to enter a country of the European Union.

By Jean-Baptiste Chastand (Vienne, regional correspondent) and Benoît Vitkine (Moscow, correspondent)

A year to the day after the start of the Russian invasion war in Ukraine, the symbol is striking. Thursday 23 and Friday 24 February, six Russian parliamentarians, including five placed under European sanctions, were able to travel quietly in Vienna to attend the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international institution which has its seat in the Austrian capital.

“International law must be respected, even if it is not popular”, had justified himself upstream Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to explain the issuance of visas to Russian parliamentarians, despite protests of more than 80 elected officials from the European Union (EU), Canada or the United States. According to the signatories, the members of the Russian delegation, but also of his Belarusian counterpart, “do not have their place in an institution responsible for promoting a sincere dialogue”.

This is the first time since the start of the conflict that members of the Duma and the Russian Senate have been able to set foot in an EU country. Fears have even come forward as to the fact that the six Russians took the opportunity to participate, Friday evening, in the traditional annual ball of the Austrian Liberty Party (FPö), far -right formation in prorussian trends. The Austrian government must have asked them to refrain from going to dance the waltz by claiming that their visa was “exclusively” reserved for their participation in the meeting of the OSCE.

electric atmosphere

Austria, neutral NATO neutral country of NATO and long ambiguous on its relations with Russia, said it was constrained by the fact that it welcomes the seat of this institution of cooperation created, in the midst of war Cold, to mark the appeasement between the two blocks, but whose operation is now completely blocked by Russia. His parliamentary assembly is an organ that brings together just over three hundred elected officials from fifty-seven member countries, during meetings that are usually raised little interest. The Russians had not been able to go to the two assemblies which were held in 2022, in Poland and the United Kingdom, failing to have obtained the necessary visas.

In an interview with the world, the head of the Russian delegation, the deputy Piotr Tolstoy, said he was satisfied with this welcome, very opportune at the time when Moscow wants to deny any international isolation. “The Austrians have undergone unprecedented pressure so as not to give visas to our delegations,” he says, but they have fulfilled their obligations and that’s normal. The principle of consensus is the basis of the OSCE. “Mr. Tolstoy, who is also vice-president of Duma, also justifies the interest for Moscow to send his representatives:” We must keep a discussion channel at least at this level. Otherwise, after our victory , with whom will you discuss? Europe went very far in its aggressiveness, but it will be necessary to reconstruct the relationship with the largest country on the continent. “

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/Media reports cited above.