Far-right lawmakers walk out of Zelenskiy speech to Austrian parliament
VIENNA (Reuters) – Lawmakers from the pro-Russia, far-right Freedom Party walked out of the lower house of Austria’s parliament on Thursday during a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, protesting that it violated Austria’s neutrality.
Zelenskiy addressed the chamber via video link, thanking Austria for its humanitarian aid and help with projects such as clearing land mines. Austria says its neutrality prevents it from military involvement in the conflict and while it supports Ukraine politically it cannot send the country weapons in its fight against the Russian invasion.
The Freedom Party (FPO), however, had warned days before that it would hold some form of protest against Zelenskiy’s address. Its lawmakers attended the start of the speech and then left.
“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,” FPO leader Herbert Kickl said in a statement on Tuesday.
Lawmakers who walked out of the chamber left small placards on their desks featuring the party logo and either “space for neutrality” or “space for peace”.
Of the five parties in parliament, the FPO has the third-biggest number of seats in the lower house. It currently has a slight lead in opinion polls over the opposition Social Democrats and Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s conservatives, who govern in coalition with the left-wing Greens.
The current parliament runs until autumn of next year.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by Angus MacSwan)