Austrian far-right declines invite for Crimea referendum
Austria's Freedom Party (FPOe) said Thursday it has declined a Russian invitation sent to it and other far-right parties in Europe to dispatch observers for this weekend's disputed referendum in Crimea.
"We received an invitation but we will not be going," a member of the FPOe, who didn't want to give his name, told AFP. He declined to say why the party, the third-largest in Austria's parliament, had said no.
Earlier however Andreas Moelzer, an MEP for the party, told the Austria Press Agency that he "didn't want a weekend break in Crimea financed by Moscow in order to issue a clean bill of health."
Other far-right parties in Europe to receive the invitation include Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, the PVV of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and the Vlaams Belang in Belgium.
It was issued by the Moscow-based non-governmental organisation the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections (EODE), according to sources in the European Parliament.
Le Pen has not indicated whether her party would accept, but on Wednesday she said that sending observers to monitor the legality of a referendum or election was something "pretty banal".
Crimea is to hold the controversial plebiscite on switching to Kremlin rule on Sunday, after which the peninsula is expected to be rapidly absorbed into Russian territory.
It comes less than three weeks after gunmen seized Crimea's parliament and installed a pro-Moscow government in the strategic Black Sea territory, where 60 percent of people identify themselves as Russian.
Ukraine and allies in the West have angrily protested the vote, saying it is illegal under international law while urging Russian President Vladimir Putin not to act on the outcome.
Le Pen on Wednesday called the European Union's position "incoherent" and said that Ukraine's new government in Kiev had "no legitimacy" and contained "extremist and neo-Nazi elements".
"Crimea is not a territory like any other. Crimea's history is very closely linked to Russia," she said.
© 2014 AFP