Members of a prominent Austrian political party walked out of a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week, showing the potential decline of foreign support for Ukraine’s war effort.
The Ukrainian leader spoke to the parliament of Austria but did not receive a warm welcome. As he began speaking, members of the Freedom Party got up and left.
The party’s leader, Herbert Kickl said, “It is sad that the FPO is the only party in parliament that takes our ever-lasting neutrality seriously, thereby also standing up for peace.”
Austria's Freedom Party Members Walk Out of Parliament During Zelensky Speechhttps://t.co/pkiIdB7ejm
— CNSNews (@cnsnews) April 1, 2023
The Freedom Party is one of the largest in the country, winning 31 seats in the nation’s National Council in the 2019 legislative elections. The party had previously been in the country’s previous government.
Austria is unique in Europe in that it is not a member of NATO. The nation promised not to join any military alliance as terms of the end of the occupation of that country by the Allies after World War II.
This unique perspective places Austria in a similar diplomatic position as its neighbor Switzerland.
Austria has mostly maintained neutrality in the conflict. As a member of the European Union (E.U.), Vienna is tied to a number of E.U. sanctions against Moscow.
Austria issued visas to a number of Russian diplomats for an upcoming conference despite pressure from the United States and other European nations.
The country also decided not to attempt to join NATO,
Chancellor Karl Nehammer is the only Western leader to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war began in February 2022.
Austria maintains significant ties to Moscow, including in its banking and energy sectors. Much of the country’s natural gas is imported from Russia while Austrian companies still operate in Russia.
The news may get worse for Zelensky as current public opinion polling places the Freedom Party as the favorite to win upcoming national elections. No date for the elections has been set, but will be held by the end of 2024.