VIENNA, September 22. /TASS/. Crimea is a part of Russia, and this fact needs to be recognized, Chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria Heinz-Christian Strache said ahead of the National Council (lower house of parliament) election, scheduled to be held on October 15.
"Crimea is an actual part of Russia. It needs to be recognized. Sanctions over this issue should be eventually lifted," Strache told the Austria Press Agency when asked if Vienna should recognize Crimea’s reunification with Russia and remove sanctions imposed over the Crimea issue.
Leader of the New Austria and Liberal Forum Matthias Strolz, in turn, said that Austria was yet unable to recognize the reunification. "However, we should agree that Crimea will never return to Ukraine. The lifting of sanctions should follow Russia’s clear steps towards democracy, freedom of expression and human rights," Strolz said. "Without it, sanctions cannot be removed," he added.
At the same time, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz still believe that "the annexation of Crimea violates international law." "However, sanctions did not improve the situation in Ukraine," Kern added.
The candidates were questioned by the Austrian Press Agency, their answers could only contain 140 characters in accordance with the limit set by Twitter.
The early parliamentary election in Austria, involving 16 political parties and movements, will be held on October 15. An intense battle for parliamentary seats is expected between Kern, the current Chancellor and head of the Social Democratic Party (SPO), and Kurz, the Foreign Minister and chairman of the Austrian People's Party.