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FP under fire after trip to Grozny

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been harshly criticised for meeting with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

It emerged yesterday (Weds) that a delegation of FPÖ officials travelled to Chechen capital Grozny to meet with the autocratic leader of the country which still suffers from the effects of several military conflicts and a dramatic civil war. FPÖ foreign affairs spokesman Johannes Hübner said his team’s intention was to make Chechnya a safer place. Speaking to a Chechen TV station, the member of the Austrian parliament (MP) said he was "impressed" by the Caucasian country’s progress.

The Austrian foreign ministry branded the FPÖ’s decision to travel to Chechnya as "absurd". A spokesman for the ministry underlined yesterday (Weds) that the right-wing opposition party failed to inform Austrian authorities about their meeting with Chechen politicians and businessmen in Grozny. The foreign ministry also said that the journey of the FPÖ delegation was "politically irrelevant".

Greens MP Peter Pilz said the FPÖ acted "irresponsibly". Pilz said a parliamentary commission must investigate the background of the trip. He called on the FPÖ to clarify whether it financially benefited from the gathering with Kadyrov. Pilz said yesterday it seemed that the FPÖ was seeking new friends after its partnership with Muammar al-Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

Late FPÖ leader Jörg Haider, who founded the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) seven years ago, met with the late Libyan dictator several times. Haider, who died in a car accident in 2008, also travelled to Baghdad to meet with Hussein, the late leader of Iraq. The trip caused worldwide outcry while some observers claim that the Austrian right-winger may have spoken with a lookalike of the infamous dictator of the war-shattered Arabian country.

There are rumours that Gaddafi and Hussein agreed to finance several FPÖ election campaigns. Political magazines claim that envoys of the feared dictators travelled to Austria with tens of millions of US dollars in cash following their superiors’ gatherings with Haider.

Hübner and FPÖ Vienna whip Johann Gudenus – who was also part of the FPÖ delegation – said they agreed with Kadyrov and his team about the creation of a cultural association for Chechen refugees in Austria. The Austrian right-wing politicians said the planned club should encourage them to return to their home country. Gudenus said: "We were able to convince ourselves that Kadyrov would not persecute them."

Around 24,000 Chechens are currently living in Austria. Many of them fear being ordered to leave the country again as authorities often need years to decide about whether refugees should be granted political asylum. The Austrian interior ministry said its aim was to shorten the time these procedures lasted to take some pressure off people looking after asylum seekers in refugee centres. Many of these institutions are constantly over-occupied.

News that a group of FPÖ officials met with Kadyrov, who is a political protégé of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, follows FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s decision to send FPÖ Vienna official David Lasar to Libya during the latest violent conflict between the North African country’s regime and representatives of its repressed opposition. Lasar said he had met with high-ranking government officials but also rebels in an attempt to bring peace to Libya.

Vienna Times

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Hussein  travelled  meeting  Grozny  Lasar  Vienna  refugees  Libyan  Austrian  leader  Chechen  Haider  Pilz  rsquo  delegation  ministry  Kadyrov  dictator  Ouml  parliament

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