Austrian far-right Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned following explosive revelations from a hidden-camera sting.
“I tendered my resignation as vice-chancellor of Austria to Chancellor Kurz, and he accepted this decision,” a visibly emotional Strache said in a televised statement.
Just days before key EU elections, Austria’s coalition government was plunged into crisis as Strache came under huge pressure to resign in light of the affair.
Media reports emerged alleging that Strache promised public contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer.
Germany’s Der Spiegel and Sueddeutsche Zeitung published hidden-camera recordings of a sting operation they say took place in a luxury villa on the island of Ibiza a few months before 2017’s parliamentary elections in Austria.
In the recordings Strache and his party’s group leader in parliament Johann Gudenus are seen discussing with a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch how she can invest in Austria. She says she specifically wants to gain control of the country’s largest-circulation tabloid, the Krone Zeitung.
Strache is seen suggesting that new owners could make staff changes at the Krone and use the paper to help his Freedom Party (FPOe) in its election campaign.
Both the newspapers that published the footage say they don’t have any firm information over who set up the elaborate sting.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has now announced early elections.
Israel and Austria’s Jewish community have boycotted the FPOe because of its closeness to the neo-Nazi scene.