The Russian President’s uneasy visit to Austria will continue this morning with a high-profile ceremony at a Soviet war memorial in Vienna. It is the first time Vladimir Putin has visited an EU member country since last week’s failed summit in Samara. Initial talks with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Alfred Güsenbauer focused mainly on the two countries’ thriving trade and mutual investments.
But attention quickly turned to more sensitive matters; the future status of Kosovo, US plans for a European missile shield and Moscow’s record on human rights. Several dozen Chechen nationals demonstrated outside, demanding freedom of speech for their country and carrying photos of victims of the Chechen war.
Putin is due to lay a wreath this morning at a memorial for Soviet soldiers who died liberating Vienna from Nazi troops in 1945 – a symbolic gesture seen as being aimed at Estonia. Earlier this month, Moscow condemned the ex-Soviet state for removing a similar monument from the centre of its capital, Tallin, and criticised the EU for failing to react.