From Austrian Minister to Putin’s dance partner: the intriguing journey of Karin Kneissl

From Austrian Minister to Putin’s dance partner: the intriguing journey of Karin Kneissl
Karin Kneissl and Putin

As the Austrian Foreign Minister appointed by the ultranationalist Fpö party, Karin Kneissl gained fame in 2018 when she danced with Vladimir Putin at her wedding, performing a graceful bow in front of the honored guest from Moscow. This was just the beginning of their budding rapport.

A year after leaving her position, Kneissl had undertaken several high-paying assignments from the Kremlin. She initially became a columnist for Russia Today, known for propagating Putin’s views, and in 2021, she joined the board of Rosneft, the Russian oil giant. However, she left this role a year later when the European Parliament threatened sanctions against her.

Yet, Kneissl’s affiliations with Russia didn’t end there. Recently, she assumed leadership of G.O.R.K.Y., a brand-new think tank focused on the Middle East, funded by the Kremlin and affiliated with the University of St. Petersburg. This time, she decided to move to the city established by Peter the Great. It seems a permanent decision as, leaving her estranged husband behind, the animal lover relocated with two boxer dogs and two beautiful ponies. Interestingly, these horses were delivered to her directly from Syria by the Russian military, causing a stir among some Russian channels.

Kneissl has distanced herself from Austria, expressing her disapproval of Vienna’s stance towards Russia. On one hand, Austrian politicians and the public consistently criticize Moscow. On the other hand, Austria continues to import gas from Russia and maintains strong commercial ties. These actions have resulted in accusations of profit from “blood money”.

The bizarre tale of the former diplomat is set against a more alarming backdrop. At the heart lies the Fpö, the extremist party that had appointed Kneissl and later sidelined her after a significant scandal. With the Fpö now leading in polls ahead of the 2024 elections, concerns arise due to their concealed yet steadfast relations with Moscow.

Peter Griddling, the former head of Austrian services, warns of the party’s concerning ties with Russia, hinting at secret fundings and assignments. He reveals that during 2017-19, when he was in charge, Austria was excluded from sharing top secret materials with other European intelligences due to the party’s interferences.