BERLIN (Sputnik) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that Austria's major political scandal involving a video recording of a meeting between then-chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) Heinz-Christian Strache and an alleged Russian woman ahead of the country's 2017 legislative elections had greatly damaged political culture.
"It [the scandal] is doing lots of harm… This is harm that has been done to the entire political culture", Maas told the Bild newspaper on Monday, adding that there were many preconceptions about politicians and the video recording proved those prejudices right.
On Friday, just over a week before Austria is due to participate in the European Parliament elections, major German media reported, citing a video recording made in Spain's Ibiza in 2017, that Strache had discussed exchanging state construction contracts for support ahead of Austria's general election with the alleged niece of a Russian oligarch. The Austrian politician later said that the woman was a Russian-speaking Latvian citizen.
Strache, who became vice-chancellor as the result of the 2017 vote, described the situation as a trap and political assassination.
The politician, whose party has been supporting the lifting of Russia sanctions and normalisation of relations with Moscow, was forced to resign as vice-chancellor and FPO leader last week over the video. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz then called for snap parliamentary elections, refusing to maintain a government coalition with the FPO because of the scandal.