Kneissl and Putin dancing at her wedding in 2018 – Copyright AFP Ivan PISARENKO

Former Austrian minister Karin Kneissl, known for dancing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has moved to Russia – along with her ponies flown in on board a Russian military plane.

In 2018, Karin Kneissl, then foreign minister of neutral Austria, made headlines when she invited Putin to her wedding in Austria and danced with him. The 58-year-old left the government the following year.

A highly controversial figure in her own country, Kneissl moved to France in September 2020. 

She claims she was pressured into leaving there and had temporarily settled in a small village in Lebanon.

Last week, Kneissl’s ponies were flown to Saint Petersburg on a military aircraft from the Russian air base at Hmeimim in Syria, according to a report by Russian investigative website The Insider. 

“It was impossible for me to drive a lorry through Syria under the circumstances of the war,” Kneissl confirmed to AFP on Wednesday.

“Due to sanctions, there are no flights or DHL (shipping service),” Kneissl wrote on Telegram, astonished that her “move has become a political issue”.  

In June, Kneissl unveiled the GORKI centre — a think tank attached to Saint Petersburg university to operate under her leadership.

The think tank was set up to “help define the policies for the Russian Federation” with a focus on the Near and Middle East. 

In 2021, Kneissl joined the Board of Directors of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

She stepped down in May 2022 after the European Parliament passed a resolution threatening sanctions against Europeans still on the boards of major Russian companies.