Karin Kneissl will move to St Petersburg to work at the Geopolitical Observatory for Russia’s Key Issues [GORKI], she told the Russian TASS news agency recently.
Last week Ms Kneissl brought two of her ponies to St Petersburg on a military aircraft from the Russian air base at Hmeimim in Syria following a diversion from its intended mission of transporting troops.
The Insider reported that Fighterbomber Z-channel confirmed that an Il-76 military transport aircraft was used to carry the animals.
Ms Kneissl, 58, received a lot of notoriety for inviting Russian presidentVladimir Putin to her wedding in 2018. She co-founded the GORKI centre which she set up with St Petersburg University in June to “help define the policies for the Russian Federation” with a focus on the Near and Middle East.
She said: “Since there is a lot of work and it requires a lot of attention, I can’t do it in passing, I decided to move to St Petersburg for this work.”
It was reported that the Russian aircraft used to bring her two ponies belonged to the 224th flight detachment of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation which in May came under US and Ukrainian sanctions for transporting equipment and mercenaries of the Wagner Group.
Ms Kneissl – who is a former foreign minister – relocated to France in September 2020 and took on the role of a guest columnist for Russia Today, an outlet often perceived as a propagandistic mouthpiece of the Kremlin.
Her invitation to Mr Putin drew widespread criticism. It occurred just months after several EU countries, excluding Austria, had expelled numerous Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
On Wednesday, the former Austrian minister expressed shock over her move to Russia turning “political”. In a Telegram post, she said that she had moved her “books, clothes and ponies from Marseille to Beirut via DHL” in June 2022.
Ms Kneissl announced in September 2022 when she appeared at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, that she had immigrated to Lebanon. She left Austria in 2020 amidst a political scandal and had moved to France.
However, Lebanon served as a temporary arrangement, she explained, and she would travel to Russia every six weeks for work.
“Due to sanctions there are neither flights nor DHL [for her move to Russia],” she wrote. “I therefore had the option of accompanying a Russian transport flight from Syria to Russia, for which I am very grateful.”
Ms Kneissl held the position of Austrian foreign affairs minister from 2017 to 2019.
Meanwhile, the website of the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the Leningrad Region stated on 9 September that veterinarians carried out “all the necessary measures when importing animals into the territory of the Russian Federation”.
“Specialists conducted a clinical examination of the ponies, took blood samples, and also quarantined them. Domestic horses are healthy”.