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Austria Chancellor Calls For Snap Elections After 'Russia-Linked' Video Scandal


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called an early election following the collapse of his coalition government over a corruption scandal.

The scandal was triggered by a secret video that showed the country's far-right vice chancellor offering contracts to a potential Russian benefactor in exchange for political donations.

President Alexander van der Bellen recommended on May 19 that elections should be held in early September, after meeting with Kurz.

The decision came hours after Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache announced his resignation from the government.

Kurz's center-right People's Party has been in government with Strache's far-right Freedom Party.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Vienna.

In addition to an anti-immigration agenda and links to far-right extremists, the Freedom Party has been dogged by suspicions of cosying up to Russian interests.

The video, published on May 17, reportedly shows Strache offering infrastructure contracts to a woman posing as a wealthy potential donor from Russia. In the video, the woman speaks Russian and identifies herself as the niece of a wealthy Russian businessman.

Another Freedom Party official is shown translating from German into Russian.

The encounter allegedly took place on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017, three months before the election that brought Strache's Freedom Party to power and made him vice chancellor.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
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