10:39 GMT +315 November 2019
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    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz, left, during a meeting

    Austria's Ex-Chancellor Slams Sebastian Kurz for Not Expelling Russian Diplomats

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    The country's former chancellor expressed his dissatisfaction with Vienna's stance on the Skripal case and accused the current government of inconsistency.

    Former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that the country's current leadership made a mistake by refusing to expel Russian diplomats together with 25 other Western countries.

    "One should have symbolically supported the decision [of the EU summit]," Kern said, cited by Kleine Zeitung. "We can't first support the resolution and then eventually refrain from taking measures, " he added.

    Kern called the current policy of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz inconsistent and wrong. He recalled that during a summit of EU leaders in March, Austria, along with other EU countries, expressed solidarity with Great Britain, but then suddenly refused to expel Russian diplomats, contrary to other countries' expectations.

    READ MORE: Russian Foreign Ministry Responds to Expulsion of Diplomats Over Skripal Case

    "This will cost [Austria] the confidence of its European partners," he warned, adding that Vienna's zigzag policy is driving the country into a corner.

    He also noted that Austria is part of the West and thus should stick to Western values.

    But "obviously Kurz and Strache feel better with Kaczynski and Orban than with Merkel and Macron," Kern concluded.

    The Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) led by Sebastian Kurz replied to Kern's criticism with restraint, saying that "Christian Kern is obviously heading for NATO membership," and adding that "Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, on the other hand, is using a proven method of building bridges."

    READ MORE: Austrian Chancellor Explains Why Vienna Refused to Expel Russian Diplomats

    Earlier, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz named several reasons for Vienna's decision not to expel Russian diplomats at London's behest amid the controversial Skripal case.

    "We have good relations with Russia now. We are a neutral country and home to the headquarters of many international organizations such as the UN and OSCE; hundreds of diplomats come here to have talks on neutral ground. That's why we can develop the role of a bridge between nations," Kurz said.

    His statement came a few days after the UK expelled more than 20 Russian diplomats and called on other countries to undertake the same measure, blaming Moscow for the poisoning of the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal. More than 25 countries, including most EU members, several other European states, as well as the US, Canada and Australia have followed the example.

    On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping center in Salisbury, England and are currently being treated for exposure to what British experts believe to be the A-234 nerve agent. The UK has claimed that the substance was developed in the Soviet Union and has accused Russia of orchestrating the attack.

    Russia has strongly rejected the accusations and offered assistance in the investigation. However, Moscow's request for samples of the chemical substance used to poison Skripal was denied.


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