Heinz-Christian Strache’s Kremlin Ties: Austria’s Dance with Russian Influence

Heinz-Christian Strache is an Austrian politician who functioned as Vice-Chancellor of Austria from 2017 to 2019. He also served as chairman of the Freedom Party, a party that often sides with pro-Russian policies. In 2018, Strache urged that he wants to end EU sanctions imposed on Russia.”It is high time to put an end to these exasperating sanctions and normalize political and economic relations with Russia,” he stated. 

In November 2016, Strache went to Russia in order to become go-betweens to encourage cooperation between Putin and Trump. While in Moscow, the Freedom Party finished a “working agreement” with Putin’s United Russia Party. In 2016, Heinze-Christian Strache as the leader of the Freedom Party announced the five-year agreement with United Russia in Moscow.

On 17 May 2019, Der Spiegel reported that in 2017, Strache and Freedom Party member Johann Gudenus had been proposed electoral support by a woman seen as the niece of a Russian oligarch called Igor Makarov. The source of the allegations was a video privately recorded at a rented villa in Ibiza in July 2017, which indicates Strache agreeing to offer the woman help in acquiring business contracts in Austria in exchange for generating support in the upcoming October 2017 election in Austria.

In the footage, according to Der Spiegel, Strache described the putative investor that he had stayed in Russia on many events and that he had had meetings with advisors of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to forge a “strategic collaboration”. He arranged the woman’s suggestion that she might help his party in the 2017 election by purchasing the mass-circulation tabloid, the Kronen Zeitung; Strache further indicated that she donated funds through their party institutions that would be difficult to audit.

During the discussion in the footage, Strache said he had contacts with Israelis who resisted left-wing politics in Israel, and that he had been requested to China to promote business between Austria and China. Strache seems to have said that the companies Glock Ges.m.b.H. and Novomatic, and investors Heidi Horten and René Benko, had made large contributions to both the FPÖ and the ÖVP using nonprofit associations.

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