Former Austrian Minister Karin Kneissl Relocates to Russia with Ponies

Former Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl has made headlines once again by announcing her relocation to St Petersburg, Russia, along with her two ponies. Kneissl, who had been living in Lebanon, left her government position amidst a scandal involving the far-right Austrian party that appointed her. The ponies were transported to Russia via a Russian military transport plane from Syria. Kneissl stated that she decided to move to Russia to run a think tank at St Petersburg University and manage the Gorki center. While she declined to comment on her move to Russia’s second city to the BBC, she mentioned on social media that her time in Lebanon had been a temporary solution, and she had been commuting to Russia to teach. Due to sanctions against Syria and the security situation there, using a military transport plane was her only option to bring her ponies and belongings to Russia. The ponies have been examined and placed in quarantine by the Leningrad region’s veterinary medicine department. Karin Kneissl served as Austria’s foreign minister from 2017 to 2019 and was chosen for the role by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, known for its close ties to Russia. She gained international attention when she invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding. Kneissl made the announcement of her move to Russia during the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, where she was in attendance. She is a regular commentator on Russian state-backed news channel RT and was previously a board member of state-owned oil company Rosneft. Kneissl had left Austria in 2020, citing death threats and a de-facto ban on working in the country. Her departure coincided with the collapse of the government coalition between the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party, triggered by a scandal involving the party’s leader. The Freedom Party, currently in opposition, holds a strong position in opinion polls, making it a potential contender to return to government in next year’s elections. Concerns have been raised about the party’s ties with Russia, particularly with its new leader Herbert Kickl, who has criticized EU sanctions imposed on Russia. Austria’s former spymaster, Peter Gridling, expressed worry about the party’s connections with Russia and noted that these links had not been severed. Austria’s capital, Vienna, has a longstanding history as a hub for espionage, which persists to this day.