The Austrian right-wing protest during Zelensky’s speech does not represent “turning the tide”

Original article (in Bosnian) was published on 06/04/2023

During Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech in the Austrian Parliament, a group of politicians left the room in protest. Although this is presented on social networks as “turning the tide” in a political sense, the protest is actually a move by Austrian right-wingers, which is perfectly consistent with their previous pro-Russian attitudes.

On March 31, 2023, a video showing part of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech in the Austrian Parliament was published on Facebook. The published video also contains a description claiming that “the tides are finally turning against this dancing dictator”, as well as that, instead of standing ovations, Austrian politicians left in protest.

Zelensky gave a speech to the Austrian parliament and instead of getting a standing ovation like in the US Congress, Austrian politicians left in protest.

The tides are finally turning against this dancing dictator.

At the time of writing this analysis, the post had 128 reactions, seven comments and was shared 48 times. The video has been viewed more than 1,700 times.

Who left the Austrian Parliament during the Ukrainian president’s speech?

The video and the claims from the aforementioned post originate from the DC_Draino Twitter profile, where the same post in English was published on March 30, 2023. The profile belongs to Rogan O’Handley, who is called a “political influencer” and uses it to promote right-wing content. On his LinkedIn profile, his social media presence is featured as O’Handley’s occupation.

The video shows Zelensky’s speech in the Austrian Parliament and a group of politicians leaving the hall, leaving signs with their party’s logo and the words “place for freedom” and “place for neutrality” in German. Due to the frame, that is, the angle from which the video was recorded, it seems as if most parliamentarians have left the hall.

However, this is not the case. A group of about 20 parliamentarians left the hall during the session held on March 30, 2023, not the entire Parliament or its majority, as it appears in the video. They are members of the right-wing political party Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). The BBC wrote about this in an article on March 30, 2023, which states the following:

Over 20 right-wing Austrian parliamentarians walked out of the Parliament during the speech of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Politicians from the Freedom Party (FPÖ) stated that Zelensky’s speech violated Austrian neutrality. (…).

There are 30 FPÖ politicians in the lower chamber of the Austrian Parliament and they were the only party that opposed Zelensky’s speech.

From the video released by the BBC, which shows almost the entire Parliament, it is clear that it is a small group of parliamentarians.

The BBC also states that this party has a history of pro-Russian positions. Numerous other sources have dealt with this topic, stating that the FPÖ has supported Vladimir Putin’s policy since 2007, and that in 2016 they signed a cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia party (1, 2, 3, 4).

Members of the same party also obstructed Zelensky’s speech in the Parliament last year, according to Euroactive’s article from April 20, 2022. As for the parliamentarians from the video and their party, no “climate change” occurred there, but it was a continuation of previously known attitudes and activities.

Is it true that “the tides are turning against the dictator” Zelensky?

When it comes to Austria in general, although this country has been neutral since 1955, in the case of war in Ukraine, the country officially supports Ukraine, which they consider a victim of Russian aggression. In ReliefWeb’s article published on May 13, 2022, it is stated that Austria has been providing significant humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The article also quotes the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Schallenberg, who said the following:

In light of Russia’s brutal war of aggression, Ukraine deserves our unlimited solidarity and help. With the largest payment ever from the Disaster Fund abroad, we especially help the most vulnerable people who suffer the consequences of this completely unjustified aggression. Thus, Austria persistently advocates its approach to aid on the ground – responsibly and sensibly.

The same minister confirmed the same position in the Parliament after Zelensky’s speech on March 30 this year, as well as on Twitter, where he announced on the same day that “Austria is never politically neutral when international law is trampled so brutally”.

At the beginning of February of this year, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited Ukraine and promised additional help, which can be seen on the official website of the President of Austria. In addition, Austria is part of the European Union, which supports Ukraine.

In the aforementioned post, the Ukrainian president is also called a “dictator”, which has no basis in reality and is part of the propaganda narratives discrediting Volodymyr Zelensky, which can be found in the analysis of the SEECheck network of fact-checking web portals from July 2022.

Given all the facts, abandoning the hall by the members of a right-wing party cannot be interpreted as a “turning the tide”, that is, any change of political attitudes. In addition, the post manipulatively claims that “politicians” left the hall, without specifying which ones, and the video itself leads to the conclusion that it is the majority of the members of Parliament.

Therefore, we assess the mentioned publication as disinformation, manipulation of facts and biased reporting.