Protests at OSCE meeting in Vienna over Russian guests

A meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) began on Thursday in Vienna with protests over the attendance of sanctioned Russian parliamentarians.

A man holds a Ukrainian flag reading
A man holds a Ukrainian flag reading "Stop Putin - Stop War" as demonstrators protest in front of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, venue of the winter conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), on February 23, 2023. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

The meeting, which has been mired in controversy for weeks, took place a day before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Austria issued nine visas to Russians, including six who are under EU sanctions, saying it was obligated to grant the visas because the OSCE is
based in Vienna.

But Ukraine and Lithuania said they are boycotting the gathering, a parliamentary assembly of the 57-member OSCE.

The Russian delegation is headed by Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s lower house, who is under international sanctions.

READ ALSO: Austria walks fine line over granting visas to Russian MPs

It is the first time Tolstoy and another sanctioned parliamentarian have travelled to an EU country since the invasion.

The session was streamed live, with journalists barred from the chamber.

“The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has endangered security in Europe and Russia is violating all OSCE principles,” parliamentary assembly chair Margareta Cederfelt said at the start of the session.

At the beginning of February, Ukraine and 19 other countries sent a letter of protest to the Austrian government, saying Russia would use the meeting to “sow disinformation, fake news and hate speech”.

The UK and Poland refused visas to Russians attending OSCE meetings they hosted last year.

But Austria has said it was “obliged under international law to grant entry to the delegates” as host to the OSCE headquarters, adding that the date “is very unfortunate.”

The OSCE was founded in 1975 to foster relations between the Western and Eastern blocs and its current members include NATO countries and allies of Moscow.

The organisation sends observers to conflicts, as well as elections around the world. It also runs programmes, such as to combat human trafficking and ensure media freedom.

Since the start of the war, the organisation has struggled to operate as Russia has blocked all major decisions, which require consensus.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


5 places to celebrate Mother’s Day in Vienna

This Sunday, Austria will join countries across the world in celebrating Mother’s Day. Many Austrians mark the day by going on family outings, so if you find yourself in the Austrian capital, here are five great spots to visit to join in on the tradition.

5 places to celebrate Mother's Day in Vienna

Vienna, a city of timeless beauty and filled with culture, offers a host of captivating destinations to celebrate Mother’s Day in a memorable way. With its historical landmarks, serene parks, and vibrant markets, this Austrian capital provides a delightful backdrop for the date.

Whether you’re a local seeking new experiences or a visitor eager to create lasting memories, here are five remarkable places in Vienna that will make this Mother’s Day celebration truly exceptional.

Riverside meal at Motto am Fluss

Going out for a family brunch or dinner is a classic way to celebrate Mother’s Day. At Motto am Fluss, you can take your pick. This elegant two-story establishment overlooking the Danube Canal features a restaurant for dinner on the first floor and a café for brunch on the enclosed upper deck above, which opens out onto a sun terrace. Both menus boast a variety of dishes, so you’ll be sure to have a delicious Mother’s Day meal. 

Vienna Culinary Festival at Stadtpark

In a case of fortuitous timing, the Wiener Genuss-Festival at the gorgeous Stadtpark takes place this weekend, making for a perfect Mother’s Day treat.100 booths featuring delicacies from across Austria will have samples on offer. And with the stations manned by the culinary creators themselves, you can also get insight into the process that lies behind their tasty bites. 

Donau Park and Danube Tower

An activity-filled Mother’s Day awaits at Donau Park. You can explore the park’s lush greens and colourful gardens via its various walking paths or on board the mini-train that traverses the grounds. The area is great for sports as well, as it has tennis courts, football pitches, and even a minigolf course.

The park is also home to the famous Danube Tower, Austria’s tallest structure. The 150-meter-high viewing platform, as well as the rotating café and restaurant located just above, provide panoramic views across the entire city. 

Picnic at Cobenzl Vineyards

If you’re looking for a more secluded outdoor experience, check out the Cobenzl vineyards, located northwest of the city centre. You can order a picnic box from the Genuss am Cobenzl restaurant online and enjoy it in their beautiful vineyard. Alternatively, you can plan a DIY picnic at the nearby Bellevuewiese. Bring your own supplies and some homemade goodies and enjoy the view from this luscious meadow that looks out over the city.

Tchaikovsky at Konzerthaus

Finally, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the famous Wiener Konzerthaus to get a taste of Vienna’s world-renowned classical music scene. At 15:00 on Sunday, the Vienna Symphony will perform Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Billed as a family concert, this promises to be an excellent Mother’s Day outing for the musically inclined.