20 June 2014

Freedom Party of Austria: pro-Russian far right lobbyists and merchants of deception

German version of this post can be found here: "Die Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs – rechte pro-russische Lobbyisten und Händler mit Täuschungen".

I wrote previously that Putin's Russia cooperates with European far right parties partly because the latter help Russian political and business elites worm into the West economically, politically and socially, and that for them the far right's racism and ultra-conservatism are less important then the far right's corruptibility.

Take, for example, late Jörg Haider. For some, he was the long-time leader of the far right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ) and, later, the chairman of the Bündnis Zukunft Österreich. But for two Russian rich businessmen, Artyom Bikov and Aleksey Bobrov, Haider was a corrupt Governor of Carinthia who could be paid €900,000 in order to "assist" them in their naturalisation process. Imagine: the leader of an Austrian anti-immigration party took bribes to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship by non-Austrians.

FPÖ, under the leadership of Heinz-Christian Strache, is also involved in dubious deals and processes which are partly ideological and partly financial. The links between FPÖ and Putin's Russia are deep and numerous, so as a starting point let's take an almost random event: the conference "Colour revolutions in the CIS countries and their current impact" that took place in Vienna on 4 June 2010 at the Imperial Hotel.

(from left to right) Maksim Shevchenko, Sergey Markov, Heinz-Christian Strache, Bermet Akayeva, Vladyslav Lukyanov, Geydar Dzhemal, Levan Pirveli, Barbara Kappel. 4 June 2010, Vienna
As it could have been expected, everybody was discussing the "terrible" nature of the colour "revolutions" in Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005). Strache particularly condemned the US that had allegedly orchestrated these revolutions with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The presence of the representatives from the "affected countries" was not surprising: Georgia (Levan Pirveli), Ukraine (Vladyslav Lukyanov) and Kyrgyzstan (Bermet Akayeva).

The Russian team consisted of MP Sergey Markov (Putin's United Russia party) and two far right publicists: Geydar Dzhemal and Maksim Shevchenko. The latter, together with Pirveli, would be active in the workings of the Russian far right Florian Geyer club headed by Dzhemal. Its speakers included Russian fascists Aleksandr Dugin, Maksim Kalashnikov and Mikhail Leontyev, Swedish anti-Semite Israel Shamir, Russian "left-wing" activist Boris Kagarlitsky and Italian Nazi-Maoist Claudio Mutti among others.

First picture: Geydar Dzhemal and Claudio Mutti. Second picture: Aleksandr Dugin and Israel Shamir. Florian Geyer club meeting, 17 October 2011, Moscow
Also present at the conference in Vienna was Barbara Kappel, a member of FPÖ and, at that time, a member of the Vienna City Council. Moreover - and this is more interesting - she is a president of Austrian Technologies GmbH (founded in 2006), a federal agency for technology transfer and security research. In other words, Austrian Technologies GmbH promotes Austrian businesses abroad, but specifically in Russia where it operates through its branch headed by Julia Vitoslavsky. The latter also cooperates with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and is a director of the Vienna-based Information Business Centre of Saint-Petersburg that is lobbying Russian business interests in Austria. However, Vitoslavsky does not seem to be engaged in far right politics and is, therefore, "normal" (apart from being involved in some weird "living energy" business).

Kappel's name often appears in connection with the FPÖ's cooperation with the Russians. In September 2010, she was one of the top party members who welcomed 20 Russian orphan children who came from  the Moscow Oblast to spend two weeks in East Tyrol under the patronage of FPÖ's Tyrol chief Gerald Hauser.

FPÖ's leaders (from left to right): Johann Gudenus, Barbara Kappel, Heinz-Christian Strache and Andreas Karlsböck. September 2010, Vienna
An act of philanthropy? Commenting on the Russian children's visit to Austria, Strache said: "It is my humanitarian duty to offer our help to the Russian friends". Who are these "Russian friends"? A possible answer to this question is provided by the FPÖ delegation's visit to the Moscow Oblast in 2011. On 11 May 2011, Heinz-Christian Strache, Johann Gudenus, Johannes Hübner, Andreas Karlsböck and Barbara Kappel travelled to Moscow to meet Boris Gromov (together with Gerhard Zeiler, a representative from the Austrian Embassy in Russia) who was then the Governor of Moscow Oblast. During the meeting, Gromov thanked the leadership of the party for their assistance in arranging the Russian orphans' trip to Austria and presented some souvenirs with the logo of the Moscow Oblast.

Roman Agapov, Aleksandra Kotova, Igor Parkhomenko, Andreas Karlsböck, Barbara Kappel, Boris Gromov, Heinz-Christian Strache, Johann Gudenus, Johannes Hübner and Tigran Karakhanov. 11 May 2011, Moscow
At the same time, the composition of the meeting shed some light on the real motives behind the FPÖ's philanthropic activities. Also present at the meeting was Tigran Karakhanov, then Minister of foreign economic relations of the Government of the Moscow Oblast, while Strache himself suggested that it was not all about helping Russian orphans: "Children are goodwill ambassadors, and it is through children that we hope to further develop cultural and economic cooperation with the Moscow Oblast". Was the FPÖ's "philanthropic act" some kind of a kickback?...

In 2008-2010, Kappel and her Austrian Technologies GmbH contributed to the development of a classical pyramid scheme called Aquabionica. This is a company that sells "Bionic Products - innovative products nano-technology, developed in conjunction with the nature". Aquabionica's main markets are Russia, Ukraine and some other East European countries where people are more prone to deception and manipulation.

Sergey Yarkov, Director of Aquabionica, and Barbara Kappel, Aquabionica's Vice-President
(two people on the right) Barbara Kappel and Sergey Yarkov
It is, however, unlikely that the Kappel and FPÖ were trying to promote Aquabionica at the meeting with Gromov. While pyramid schemes do provide good opportunities for money laundering (especially in Austria), they are hardly the topic one would discuss with the Governor of Moscow Oblast. Most likely, it was something different - something that would involve FPÖ's investments in the business structures of the Moscow Oblast.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this article.

    A Russian neo-nazi of DPNI recognizes some of his comrades anong the persons who fight for "Novorossia". He also tells that RF tried to recruit them for fighting in Crimea:

    Sorry for the off-topic, but I thought that this information could be interesting to you (you can delete this message if necessary).


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