Putin set to attend Austrian foreign minister's wedding

Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant breaking through the metre-thick ice of the Arctic Ocean

Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant breaking through the metre-thick ice of the Arctic Ocean

The motorcade of Russian President Vladimir Putin has left the village of Gamlitz in Austria where the wedding ceremony of Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and businessman Wolfgang Malinger was held on Saturday.

Karin Kneissl was all smiles as she danced with the strongman in a vineyard in Austria's southern Styria province - though critics anxious her invitation to Putin undermined the West's tough-guy approach with Moscow.

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Kneissl's far-fright Freedom Party (FPO), praised the foreign minister as a "bridge builder".

Photos showed Putin dancing with the bride, who was dressed in traditional Austrian costume.

The Russian president was accompanied by a band of Cossack singers who performed for the wedding guests.

Peskov said Putin said "quite a long toast in German in which he said he was thankful and happy that he got a chance to visit the hospitable Austria".

Ukraine was also on the agenda for the pair's meeting at the stunning Meseberg Palace, north of Berlin, which was built in 1739.

Speaking to the media before the meeting, Ms Merkel said she would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Iran and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The pipeline that would send Russian natural gas directly to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea has come under fire from Washington and some European Union members.

Standing beside Mr Putin outside Meseberg castle, Ms Merkel said she would also raise human rights issues and bilateral relations. Ahead of Putin's visit, Merkel's spokesman said the conditions for a return of refugees are nowhere near at hand. I think it's in everyone's interests, including Europe's, ' he said.

Germany, which has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the war, has in the past insisted it wouldn't contribute to the reconstruction of Syria before a political settlement to end the war has been reached.

On Ukraine, Merkel said the two leaders would discuss the possibility of a United Nations peace mission for eastern Ukraine.

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