Busy Putin dances at Austrian wedding, talks with Merkel on Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a flying visit to Austria to attend the wedding of the country's foreign minister yesterday before heading to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Austrian authorities imposed tight security measures around the site of the ceremony near the southern border with Slovenia, where Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl married her partner Wolfgang Meilinger, a businessman.
Kneissl, an independent, was nominated by the pro-Russia Austrian Freedom Party, whose leaders also attended the wedding.
Photos showed Putin dancing with the bride, who was dressed in a traditional Austrian costume. According to Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Putin also brought a small Cossack men's choir along to entertain about 100 guests at the wedding.
Austrian lawmaker Joerg Leichtfried of the opposition Social Democratic Party criticised Kneissl's decision to invite Putin to the wedding, saying it called into question Austria's role as a neutral intermediary in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels are battling government forces. Austria currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency.
Putin gave the newly-weds a cold press oil machine, a traditional Russian samovar and a landscape painting that depicts the place where the groom hails from.
Speaking hours later alongside Merkel before the two leaders held bilateral talks at the German government's guest house in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Putin said they would discuss bilateral ties, economic cooperation and Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.