A sharp exchange of words about Austrian neutrality took place over the weekend between Moscow and Vienna.

The Russian foreign ministry released a statement harshly criticizing the chancellor of “apparently neutral Austria”.

In the past few days he had made "unilateral and outrageous statements" about the situation in Ukraine and used "emotional anti-Russian rhetoric".

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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Moscow is referring to statements by Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) about the unilateral unleashing of the Ukraine war by Russia, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, Nehammer's remark is criticized that neutrality was "forced" on Austria by Soviet communists after the Second World War.

In this regard, Moscow recalls that the Red Army paid a high price for the "liberation of the territory of this country," that is, Austria, and more than 26,000 soldiers died in the process.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has also been criticized for having made “absurd accusations” against Russia, including the accusation of having destroyed the pan-European security architecture.

"We firmly condemn such unfounded statements and assessments." This would raise serious doubts about the quality of Austrian neutrality, which has been noticeably declining and eroding in recent times.

We will take that into account in the future.

"It was a condition of the Soviets at the time"

The Foreign Ministry in Vienna tweeted its response in German and Russian: “Militarily speaking, Austria is a neutral state.

But we are never politically neutral when it comes to respect for international law.” One will “never” remain silent when a state's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are attacked.

"Compliance with international law, in particular the provisions of international humanitarian law, is our red line." Nehammer explained the statement about "forced" neutrality": He himself emphasized in parliament that Austria had been liberated by Russian soldiers.

But it is also a fact "that Austria became free ten years later" "by professing permanent neutrality, and that was a condition of the Soviets at the time".

The former ÖVP top politician Andreas Khol spoke out in a newspaper article in favor of Austria now, in view of the "turn of the era", delete the then freely chosen neutrality from its constitution in an equally free decision and opt for joining NATO or working in one European army of the EU decide.

The opposition Social Democrats insinuated that the ÖVP had sent Khol "in order to saw off neutrality and to propagate joining NATO".

Nehammer should end the "shaking of neutrality".

The SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner wrote, like Khol in the "Kleine Zeitung", that neutrality "as a cornerstone of Austrian foreign policy strengthens our security".