LONDON (AP) — A former Austrian foreign minister who had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding and danced a waltz with him at the 2018 reception said she has moved to St. Petersburg to set up a think tank there.
Karin Kneissl, 58, announced on messaging app Telegram on Wednesday that her ponies, which she has been keeping in Syria, were taken to Russia on a Russian military plane.
Kneissl was nominated as a non-party member by the right-wing Freedom Party to serve as foreign minister, a position which she held from 2017 to 2019.
She was repeatedly criticized in Austrian and German media during that time for her pro-Russia views. Her dance with Putin came just months after Russia was accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, with nerve agent Novichok in the United Kingdom.
Kneissl said in her post that she moved her “books, clothes and ponies from Marseille to Beirut” in June 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, after which she says she was "banished" from France.
At the Eastern Economic Forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok earlier this week, Kneissl told Russian state news agency Tass that she had set up the Gorki center — a think tank associated with the state university in St. Petersburg.
Because the think tank requires a lot of her time, she decided to move to Russia, she said.
The Gorki center, Kneissl told Tass, "deals, among other things, with issues of energy, migration and new alliances — issues in which I am well versed, which also affect the Arab and Islamic world, with which I am familiar.”
Kneissl also said on Telegram that “since apparently nothing is going on in Austria and Germany beyond the economic crisis, my relocation is becoming a political issue.” She added, in a swipe likely at her critics, that “the hatred that seeps out of Austria amazes not only me.”
In an interview at the forum with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Kneissl said, “it's not easy to move to Russia” because of the amount of paperwork involved but that she had already moved into an apartment she is renting in St. Petersburg.
Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Germany, contributed this report.