Russian President Vladmir Putin has held talks with his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer in Vienna, a week after the failed Russia-EU summit. Putin had hoped the focus of the talks would be limited to economic matters. However, during the press conference following discussions, journalists’ questions soon turned to U.S. plans for a missile defence system in eastern Europe.
Putin said consultations with Washington had failed to change Russia’s opposition. “We believe that this initiative is absolutely counterproductive. It is not legitimate given the current position in Europe, or in the world. What is happening in Europe that is so negative that we feel obliged to flood eastern Europe with new armaments?”
Russia’s human rights record also came under the spotlight. On this issue, Putin said: “I think we must listen attentively to the criticism coming out of Europe. Also, certain partners in Europe must not forget they have sufficient problems in this sphere. And when we allow ourselves to take such reprimanding tones, for us it is unacceptable.”
Two anti-Putin protests were held earlier in Vienna. One saw demonstrators calling for freedom of expression in the media. They wore t-shirts bearing the name of a Russian journalist killed during Putin’s leadership. The other was held by local Chechens demanding freedom of speech for their country. They carried photos of victims of the Chechnya war.