Austria Sends Old Helmets To Ukraine And Gives New Ones To Own Troops

The Austrian defence ministry says it is buying new military helmets for its troops and sending the old ones to Ukraine.

The far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) complained that Austrian soldiers would be left without helmets when they were requisitioned to be sent to Ukraine.

However, the Austrian Ministry of Defence has said that while it is indeed collecting used helmets to be sent to Ukraine, it is also equipping its forces with a consignment of 18,000 brand-new helmets.

Two military police officers with the new combat helmet in Austria’s capital Vienna. (Armed Forces, Helmut Steger/Newsflash)

Speaking to Newsflash, the FPOe confirmed that this means that the old helmets are being collected to be sent to war-torn Ukraine, while the brand-new helmets are being handed out to Austrian soldiers not in battle.

The leader of the FPOe, Herbert Kickl, 53, has bemoaned the move and is quoted in Austrian newspaper Heute today (3rd March) as saying: “The fact that the government is coming and sending the personal protective equipment of thousands of Austrian soldiers to Ukraine is a declaration of bankruptcy for Austria’s defence and neutrality policy, which paints a picture of misery.”

The Austrian Armed Forces and Defence Minister, Klaudia Tanner, 51, had issued a statement yesterday (Wednesday, 2nd March) stating that Austrian soldiers were receiving new helmets and the old ones were being sent to Ukraine to help the war effort against the Russian despot Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

The Austrian Armed Forces (Bundesheer) said in the statement obtained by Newsflash: “Starting today, another 18,000 soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces will receive new combat helmets. The previous models are handed over by the troops and 10,000 Kevlar helmets are handed over to the Ukraine as humanitarian support for the civilian population.”

Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner is quoted in the statement as saying: “The protection of our soldiers has top priority. I am therefore pleased that the next instalment of the new combat helmets can now be issued to the troops.

“At the same time, this new equipment enables us to use the previous models of helmets in Ukraine as urgently needed protective clothing for the civilian population can make available. The current crisis in Europe between Ukraine and Russia shows that the federal army needs to be geared to the new threats and modernised.”

Austrian politician and leader of Freedom Party of Austria Herbert Kickl, 53, who criticised the government’s decision to donate helmets to Ukraine. (Parlamentsdirektion, Johannes Zinner/Newsflash)

Like other neutral and non-aligned states, such as Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland, Austria has a strong relationship with NATO despite not being a member of the military alliance.

Austria’s relationship with NATO is governed by the Partnership for Peace (PfP) framework, which the central European country joined in 1995.

Austria’s far-right FPOe party has also repeatedly come under scrutiny over alleged ties and cosiness with Vladimir Putin’s government.

It was reported in 2016 that the FPOe had signed a cooperation agreement with the KGB-Lieutenant-Colonel-turned-President’s party, United Russia.

This prompted the party to offer to act as a go-between for then-US-President Donald Trump and Mr Putin.

And in 2019, a coalition government between the Conservative Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), led at the time by then Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and the FPOe collapsed amid allegations that the then-Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache had engaged in influence-peddling with a still-unidentified woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch. It has also been alleged that “Ibizagate”, as the affair came to be known, was a setup.

The Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday, 2nd March, that more than 2,000 civilians have been killed so far in Russia’s invasion. They also claim to have killed nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers.

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