VIENNA, Sept 2 Austrian Chancellor Werner
Faymann took a tougher line on Russia's role in Ukraine on
Tuesday, blasting Moscow's "deception and salami tactics" in the
conflict and saying Austria was prepared to pay the price of
It was a significantly harder line from neutral Austria,
which until now has been reluctant to hit Russia hard with
economic sanctions designed to punish what Western leaders have
called unacceptable Russian behaviour.
"You cannot say we are all for freedom but the rouble has to
roll," the Social Democrat chancellor told reporters after a
cabinet meeting, using a German expression for money has to keep
"If it is necessary to defend freedom and international law,
then Austria will be in the forefront."
Austria had been walking a careful line between showing
solidarity with European Union peers and keeping the lines of
communication open with Moscow, with which it has traditionally
had good political and business ties.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Vienna in June,
when Russia's Gazprom and Austria's OMV
sealed a deal to build a branch of the giant Russian South
Stream gas pipeline to Austria.
Austrian lenders such as Raiffeisen Bank International
and Bank Austria, the eastern European arm of Italy's
UniCredit, depend heavily on Russia for profits, but
Russia accounts for less than 3 percent of Austria's foreign
Faymann told broadcaster ORF that Moscow's explanations of
how Russian troops and tanks had entered Ukraine were "getting
more and more obviously provocative. Nobody can believe this, so
it is fitting to have a clear political message here."
He reiterated he was against using force against Russia and
said the EU should sharpen sanctions, but the question was in
Asked about potential sanctions on gas supplies, he said:
"They are an issue but you have to know that gas supplies
also have a massive effect on Europe's economy. The priority for
me is political dialogue, negotiations, exerting pressure, and
perhaps not delivering any more weapons."
He said he would be disturbed should the Western military
alliance NATO also decide to intervene in Ukraine, adding: "I
don't want to contribute anything to accelerate this military
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by