June 23. 2024. 7:54

The Daily

Read the World Today

Too close to Belarus: Austrian centre-left politician stepped down

Deputy Mayor of Schwechat David Stockinger, a centre-left SPÖ politician, has stepped down after it was revealed that he had appeared in far-right magazines and donned Soviet uniforms in Belarus.

When large parts of the SPÖ party, which is currently in opposition, failed to attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech before Austria’s parliament at the end of March, the party’s position on Russia and its wider sphere of influence was put under scrutiny by journalists.

Stockinger’s review of Minsk’s nightclubs for the extremist right-wing German magazine Compact in 2012 in particular, as well as photos of him wearing the uniform of Soviet Secret Service NKVD in 2019, as Ö1 revealed, quickly came into focus.

After the centre-right in his home state of Lower Austria quickly called for the SPÖ to drop him, he announced his resignation on Monday.

While he is a relatively unknown SPÖ official, his resignation is politically significant because it puts the party’s relationship with the Kremlin’s sphere of influence into focus and adds to the party leadership fight held between party chief Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the conservative state chief Andreas Doksozil and Traiskirchen Mayor Andreas Babler.

Stockinger is said to be close to Babler, one of the most promising candidates vying for SPÖ leadership. “Yes, David Stockinger is one of many from my SJ [SPÖ youth organisation] time,” Babler reportedly said on Monday but played down the significance of their relationship.

In 2020, Stockinger was forced to resign as head of the Austria-Belarus friendship group.

(Nikolaus J. Kurmayer | EURACTIV.de)