Putin to visit Austria, may discuss US missile shield

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : Russian President Vladimir Putin is due in Vienna Wednesday for his first foreign visit since a summit with European Union leaders in Russia last week, fraught with disagreements.

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Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko told reporters ahead of Putin's two-day visit to the Austrian capital that his discussions with the country's leadership would focus on bilateral business ties, but could also address a key defence dispute between Moscow and Central Europe.

"The main focus will be economic and investment cooperation, the implementation of a number of promising joint projects in energy, mechanical engineering, metals and transport," he said.

The talks may address Washington's controversial plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, and relations between Russia and the EU as a whole, the Kremlin aide said.

Putin's visit to Austria is seen by many as an attempt to improve relations with individual European Union nations after the tense May 17-18 talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso near the Volga city of Samara.

The sides had hoped to discuss a new cooperation deal to replace the existing Russia-EU partnership agreement, but negotiations remained blocked by Warsaw's veto over a Russian ban on Polish meat and plant exports. The talks, held against a backdrop of political opposition rallies, also brought up questions over an alleged deterioration of democracy in Russia.

Prikhodko said the Russian side would be willing to discuss US plans for a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, whose deployment is seen by Russia as a potential threat to its national security.