The far-right former Austrian Foreign Minister who made international headlines when Vladimir Putin flew to attend her wedding and danced with her has complained that she has been forced out of her home country and fled to France after losing “everything”.
Karin Kneissl, 57, who is affiliated with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) and who has refused to resign from Russian state oil company Rosneft, said she was forced to flee to France and described herself as a “political refugee” who had no other choice than to move to sunny Provence after being unable to find gainful employment back home.
She said “I had to flee, I didn’t leave voluntarily”, explaining that this was “more because of the widespread general hositlity than the de facto ban on working”.
The Austrian politician turned member of the supervisory board of the Russian state oil company Rosneft said: “I never thought I’d have to give up everything I’ve built.”
She also criticised the sanctions taken by the West and much of the world against Russia, in light of its invasion of its neighbour Ukraine, complaining that there were no longer any flights connecting Moscow to Europe or North America.
The connection between many of Europe’s far-right politicians and Putin, along with his United Russia party, has garnered intense scrutiny in recent days, with many publicly condemning his blatant violations of international law while also on occasion blaming NATO for a perceived push East.
Alice Weidel, the head of Germany’s far-right AfD party, denounced the “historical failure” of Western powers, accusing them of tempting Ukraine with joining NATO rather than pushing for the country to act a neutral buffer zone between the Alliance and Putin’s Russia.
Kneissl served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sebastian Kurz’s coalition government, made up of the conservative OeVP and the far-right FPOe, from December 2017 to June 2019, and is perhaps most famous for having danced with Putin at her wedding.
She was nominated by the Freedom Party but insisted that she took the seat as an independent.
Kneissl married entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger, 54, in the Austrian town of Gamlitz, near the border with Slovenia, in August 2018. Images showed her dancing with Putin, who was a guest, before curtsying. The images, showing a European foreign minister bowing to Putin, made international headlines.
Kneissl left office in 2019 after a vote of no confidence ended Chancellor Kurz’s first government over what has come to be known as “Ibizagate”, when footage emerged showing Austria’s then-vice chancellor, ex-FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache, offering to trade political influence and financial support with an as yet unidentified woman who he believed to be the niece of an influential Russian oligarch.