OREANDA-NEWSAustrian President Alexander van der Bellen arrives in Russia for the first time. He will hold talks with Vladimir Putin. Politicians have already met before - both of them were guests at the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneisl. Relations between Moscow and Vienna are overshadowed by the espionage scandal, and a personal acquaintance in an informal setting can help resolve the situation.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen will take part in the opening of the Sochi Dialogue Forum on May 15 and will meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The Forum is a humanitarian initiative uniting representatives of business, arts and sports, as well as representatives of civil society of the two countries. In an interview with the media before coming to Russia, the Austrian president described relations between the countries as “traditionally good”.

At the same time, some friction has recently arisen between Russia and Austria related to the situation around the monument to the soldiers of the Red Army in the center of Vienna. “I believe that everyone in Austria is aware of the victims suffered by the Russian soldiers at that time, and the great monument at Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna reminds of this,” the president said in an interview. Putin and Van der Bellen have already met: the president of Austria received the Russian leader in his home country in June 2018.

In the EU, this visit was perceived as a symbol of Austria’s special significance for Russian policy in the EU. At the same time, Kneisl, despite her personal sympathy for the Russian president, canceled her visit to Russia in November 2018. This happened because of the spy scandal that broke out in Vienna. Unlike the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurtz, the federal president has more freedom of maneuver in his statements and actions.