Putin ‘to visit Austria next month’

Russian Premier Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Vienna next month, according to a newspaper report.Vienna daily Heute reported today (Weds) that Putin, who has a black belt, would attend the Judo World Championships – set to take place in the Austrian capital between 22 and 25 April – on 24 April.The newspaper also claimed that Putin would meet with Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann.Political experts said the Austrian chancellor might take the opportunity to try to keep Putin from taking away Austrian Airlines’ (AUA) landing rights in Russia.Talks between representatives of the two governments and the airline – which was taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa last year – have been ongoing for months with little result.Putin said earlier this year that he expected clarification from the new AUA board whether the carrier could still be considered Austrian as Russia’s agreement with Austria on landing rights had been signed on condition that the company remain under Austrian ownership.Putin said AUA might lose its rights to provide service to Russian destinations.Niki Lauda, CEO of Austrian discount airline FlyNiki, has already made clear he is interested in taking over AUA’s Russian slots. He was one of the most outspoken critics of the AUA-Lufthansa deal and the Austrian government’s support of AUA with 500 million Euros of taxpayers’ money.Heute, meanwhile, has claimed that Austrian police have already been in talks with anti-terror experts over special security measures for the Russian prime minister’s visit.Around 1,000 officers were on duty to protect Putin during his last visit to Vienna three years ago.Faymann had invited Putin to the Europa Forum in the Vorarlberg town of Lech scheduled for late March, but the event was cancelled earlier this month after most high-profile European politicians who had been invited decided not to attend it.