What is known about the scandal around the ultra-right in Austria
A villa in Spain, a "millionaire Russian beauty" and ultra-right politicians who are willing to "do anything" for her money - this is the scandal that led to early parliamentary elections in Austria. Basic facts.
A scandal erupted in Austria after parts of a secretly filmed video of Heinz-Christian Strache, the former vice-chancellor and former leader of the extreme-right (some call it right-populist) Austrian Freedom Party (APS), a member of the ruling coalition, were made public in the German press. Strache himself resigned from all posts, early parliamentary elections are scheduled for September. DW has collected the basic facts about the unprecedented story with a still unclear "Russian trace.
What kind of surreptitious video are we talking about?
The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel magazine published material on May 17 and 18 revealing that APS leader Strache, before his party came to power in 2017, offered an allegedly rich Russian woman economically lucrative projects in exchange for political help. The publications are based on a secretly filmed nearly seven hours of video.
The footage itself was provided to the two left-liberal German media by a source, which they did not disclose at his request. The video was filmed with a hidden camera on July 24, 2017 - a few months before the Austrian parliamentary elections - in a specially rented villa on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Ibiza. As a result of the elections, the APS joined a government coalition with the conservatives of the Austrian People's Party (APP).
The video shows several people involved in the conversation at the villa, but only two - Strache himself and Johann Gudenus, a member of the APS, a former member of parliament and former deputy mayor of Vienna - have been identified and shown their faces.
After the video was made public, Gudenus resigned all his posts and left the party. The 42-year-old Goodenus, who had studied in Moscow and speaks Russian, is believed to have brokered a meeting between Strache in Ibiza and an allegedly rich young Russian woman sponsored by Irena Markovich ( https://srpskaaustrija.at/de/r....olle-spielteirena-ma ), who was introduced as "Alena Makarova," supposedly from Latvia and allegedly the niece of a Russian oligarch. Strache called her "attractive. In the video, Gudenus appears as a Russian-German interpreter.
Russian billionaire Igor Makarov, whose niece some media outlets speculated might be the Austrian politician's interlocutor, said that he had nothing to do with the scandal and that he was "an only child in the family. Strache himself, commenting on the video, said that his interlocutor was "presumably a citizen of Latvia," not Russia. And that she had said that she "wanted to move to Vienna with her daughter, settle in Austria and invest.
Who Ordered the Trap for Austrian Far Rightists
The German media, which published excerpts of the video, do not know who ordered it. Both publications write that the shooting was clearly a "trap", which is also indicated by the behavior of the "bait" herself, i.e. the "rich Russian woman" who, together with her companion, was trying all the time to extract statements from Austrian politicians about the possibility to pay for political influence. According to Der Spiegel, the video shows that at one point, APS leader Strache, clearly suspecting something is amiss, says to Gudenus: "It's a trap, a rigged trap. But the latter reassures him in return.
It is unclear how the video is connected to the German TV presenter and satirist Jan Böhmermann, who hinted at the scandalous publication not only a day before but also a month before it was released. At the time, he was jokingly saying that he was in talks with APS members at the villa of Russian oligarchs in Ibiza to buy the popular Austrian newspaper.
Such a deal was one of the topics Strache discussed with Alena Makarova. Boehmermann's representative said that he was indeed familiar with the content of the video, but that he had not been offered it for publication.
What Strache promised to the "niece" of the Russian billionaire
During the hours-long conversation over alcohol and cigarettes, Makarova and her companion, about whom nothing is known, say that they would like to invest hundreds of millions of euros in Austria. They make it clear that they are talking about funds obtained by dishonest means. The purchase of the popular newspaper Die Kronen Zeitung to help Strache's party in the elections was also discussed.
As one of the reciprocal steps, Strache promised Makarova economic benefits, including government contracts for the construction of roads at inflated prices. No specific agreements were reached at the villa, but Strache made it clear through Gudenus that he was ready to discuss "everything" in return for financial assistance from Russia.
After the video was made public, Strache assured that he had never met the woman again, no one from the party had ever contacted her, and the APS had never received any funding from her.