Austria’s Government Collapses After Far-Right Minister Was Filmed Appearing to Agree to Contracts with Russia

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Youtube
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A deep political crisis engulfed Austria when a video was released showing the leader of the country’s junior coalition. far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) seemingly agreeing to offer public contracts to a Russian backer in 2017. The video appears to be part of a ‘sting’ operation. The two-year old video was leaked to leftist German newspapers just a week ahead of the European Union elections in which far-right and populist parties are expected to do well. But, now, all of the FPÖ ministers have resigned. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will face a no-confidence vote on Monday.

A deep political crisis engulfed Austria on Friday after a video was released showing the leader of the country’s junior coalition far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) seemingly agree to offer public contracts to a Russian backer — and one name, that of a German satirist, keeps coming up.

In the three days since the scandal erupted, the man at the heart of it all, Vice-Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache, resigned; Chancellor Sebastian Kurz accused the party of trying to undermine reforms and called for snap elections; and FPÖ ministers riposted by resigning en masse.

READ MORE: Austria’s FPÖ ministers resign en masse to protest colleague’s sacking in wake of video scandal

Meanwhile, the German media outlets which released the footage have refused to say who gave it to them, but questions are arising about Jan Böhmermann, a German satirist and television presenter, after recent comments he made reveal he’s known about the video for a while.

Euronews breaks it all down.

The video

The footage was released on Friday by Germany’s “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) and “Spiegel” and was captured in Ibiza, Spain, in the summer of 2017.

It shows Strache and another FPÖ official, Johann Gudenus, speak with a woman they believe to be a Russian oligarch’s niece. She tells them she plans to invest €250 million in Austria and they discuss how this could help the far-right party. Strache suggests she invests in the “Kronen Zeitung” tabloid to turn it into an FPÖ-friendly outlet and appears to promise public contracts in exchange.

They also discuss how to cover up illegal donations she might want to make to the party and Strache’s plans to restructure the country’s state broadcaster, ORF, in order to build “a media landscape like [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban did.”

Strache’s response

In his resignation speech on Saturday morning, Strache decried the “dirty campaign” against him, arguing that it was part of a “targeted political assassination”.

Read full article here…

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