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Christian Wehrschütz Austrian media
Christian Wehrschütz, one of the most influential reporters about Ukraine in Austria, is accused of uncritically toeing the Kremlin’s line. Screenshot from his report from central Kyiv

Whitewashing Putin: how one reporter muddies Austrian views on Ukraine

When an ORF segment aired Russian disinformation about Ukraine, it spotlighted the pro-Moscow bias of its veteran correspondent Christian Wehrschütz.
Whitewashing Putin: how one reporter muddies Austrian views on Ukraine

The murky career of Christian Wehrschütz, from far-right Aula to ORF correspondent accused of pro-Russia bias, encapsulates Austria’s complex relationship with Moscow.

As the Austrian public broadcaster’s chief Ukraine correspondent, Christian Wehrschütz holds considerable sway over Austrian public opinion on Ukraine. However, his reporting is often indistinguishable from Russian propaganda, from whitewashing Putin to demonizing NATO.

Flaunting press freedom, Wehrschütz leverages lawyers and tabloids to evade scrutiny for his factually flawed reporting. Meanwhile, his employer provides an uncritical platform for disinformation that toes the Kremlin’s line and promotes Russia’s occupation of Ukraine. While Austria relies on Russia’s gas, Wehrschütz whitewashes Putin’s war crimes.

His views permeate state TV despite clashing with Austria’s official pro-Ukraine stance. With the pro-Russian Freedom Party polling at 30%, will its dogma shape ORF’s future coverage?

The report was written by the Alliance for a Stable Democracy – a collective of authors who desire to remain anonymous. Euromaidan Press has verified the identity of one of the authors — a trusted specialist in the field — and is publishing the report because publicizing this in-depth analysis of Russian narratives in Austria is in the public interest.

Read their previous article: NGO Institute for Security Policy, Austrian Ministry of Defense, and Valdai-Club: Case study on Russian influence in Central Europe


The reasons for the relative success of pro-Russian positions in Central and Western Europe can be summarized as follows:

  • The role of certain mass media and media personalities who, intentionally or unintentionally, spread Russian narratives;
  • sympathies for the “strong man” Vladimir Putin and his way of “doing things decisively” (many opinion polls testify to an increasing “longing for the strong man”, dwindling trust in the existing democratic system, and authoritarian tendencies among the population);
  • the influence of certain lobbyists and businessmen who have made a lot of money in and with Russia;
  • indifference in the population, politics, and media towards Ukraine, a lack of solidarity with it;
  • widespread ignorance about Ukraine (and Russia) among the population as well as the political class;
  • “traditional” anti-Americanism, which also fuels and supports the theory of a “proxy war” between the USA and Russia over Ukraine (see chapter 7).

In this context, it must be taken into account that Austria (since 1955) – unlike most other countries in Central and Western Europe that belong to NATO – is neutral. The right-wing radical and populist Austrian Freedom Party takes advantage of this to present itself as a “defender of neutrality,” which is, however, only a cipher for its pro-Russian orientation. Thus, it has since 2016 a cooperation agreement with the United Russia party, a tool of the Kremlin’s increasing and eventually totalitarian rule. The Freedom Party has been leading in all opinion polls for about a year with about 30%, why it would therefore clearly win parliamentary elections.

Its current success can be at least partly explained by a considerable “longing for the strong man” and desires for an “overall change of the political system” in society, which can be clearly proven on the basis of opinion polls.

Austria has traditionally been one of the most pro-Russian members of the EU. In this country, the wrong conclusions have been drawn from the events since 2014 with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the unleashing of a war in the Donbas. Soon after the annexation, namely at the beginning of June 2014, Putin was received ceremoniously in Vienna. Especially during his visit to the Economic Chamber, some top Austrian politicians delivered exceedingly embarrassing scenes.[1]

In 2018, a contract for the supply of Russian natural gas to Austria – and thus its dependence on Moscow – was extended once again, until 2040 (!). And in the same year, pictures of the dance of then Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (nominated by the Freedom Party) with Putin at her wedding went around the world.[2]

Russian President Vladimir Putin dancing arm-in-arm with Austria’s Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl at her wedding on 18 August 2018. Recently, Kneissl, now ex-Minister, joined the board of directors at Russia’s state Rosneft, fueling speculation about the systemic corruption of top-level EU politicians. Screenshot: Youtube/Euronews in English

In Austria, even in the face of the war of annihilation against Ukraine, in April 2023, 31% of respondents were of the opinion that Russia was a “necessary partner” with whom “for strategic reasons” (whatever that may be) “cooperation” should take place (Hungary also had 31% on this question; and only Bulgaria with its particularly strong affinity with Russia, had more sympathy here, with 47%); a further 3% in Austria even considered Russia to be “an ally that shares our interests and values” (46% considered Russia an “enemy”, 7% “a rival – with which we need to compete”).[3]

The media as well as readers’, listeners’, and viewers’ reactions to their reporting, dominant or in any case very strong opinions in social networks, events on “the street” (demonstrations and other events), and in educational institutions, etc. show that in Austria a tendency is very strong which can be summarized as follows:

  • “This is not our war” (i.e. against Ukraine)
  • Ukraine is horribly corrupt and a “bottomless pit” for any Western help
  • Russia is much bigger and more important than Ukraine, why it is crucial to get on well with Moscow – also because “we need the natural gas” (which is factually wrong).

And usually it is immediately added that American fracked gas should not be bought under any circumstances because it is expensive and also produced under conditions that are harmful to the environment. In contrast, hardly anyone is interested in the fact that Austria’s gas purchases are pouring billions of euros into Russia’s war chest every year and thus helping it to fund the war against Ukraine.

According to an opinion poll in the summer of 2023, 42% of Austrians advocated that Ukraine should continue fighting to regain all of its territory, while 37% advocated “peace at any price” (meaning: with cessions of territory to Russia). It is interesting to note that supporters of the Freedom Party are 63% in favor of Ukraine relinquishing territories in order to achieve “peace with Russia”.[4]

All this is the background, always to be taken into account, for the reporting of the correspondent of the public Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (Österreichischer Rundfunk, or ORF) in Ukraine, Christian Wehrschütz, who is the main subject of this paper.

On 15 August 2023, the main TV news program of the ORF, “Zeit im Bild 1,” carried a Wehrschütz-edited reportage that claimed to cover corruption in Ukraine.[5]

Firstly, it presented a footage of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) from March 2023, which de facto showed the arrest of an agent of the Russian secret service FSB in the Ukrainian city of Odesa[6],[7] calling it “arrest of a Ukrainian draft dodger.” And a second video played was not about the forced recruitment for the army at a Ukrainian university as claimed by Wehrschütz but about the rejection of Ukrainian students at the Shegyna checkpoint on the border with Poland (where the Ukrainian border guards took one person away). And Wehrschütz from all his coverage drew the conclusion “that not all [Ukrainian] men are ready to fight for their country.”[8]

But all this is, of course, not comprehensible to the necessary extent without illustrating Wehrschütz’ personal and political background and the history of his many years of work on – or better: against – Ukraine.

1. Who is Christian Wehrschütz and how does he report from Ukraine?

Wehrschütz (born in 1961) started his career in journalism in the magazine Aula (discontinued in 2018), which is also described as “right-wing extremist” in the Wikipedia article about him.[9] He denied that it was extreme in “his time” there; and for him, there was “nothing to regret” at all. Instead, he wondered why people were still talking about it. “I stand by what I wrote.”[10]

Good to know, Mr Wehrschütz. And because of your explicitly formulated complete unwillingness to even remotely distance yourself from this part of your professional past, the explanation and justification often used in similar situations, that these were “youthful sins” that should not be “rehashed” decades later, is totally inapplicable. It is, therefore, appropriate to point out that, according to the Vienna-based Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (against Nazism), Aura “essentially […] served the German nationalist to right-wing extremist milieu in Austria”; moreover, the magazine had attracted attention because of “persistent anti-Semitic agitation.”[11]

The Austrian journalist Hans-Henning Scharsach called the Aula a “link between fraternities [German: Burschenschaften], the Austrian Freedom Party, and neo-Nazis.” According to him, the authors of the Aula included, “in addition to Freedom Party politicians, the elite of brown history falsifiers, Holocaust deniers, racists, anti-Semites and despisers of democracy, who appear as speakers at fraternity events and at the same time act as cues for the violent neo-Nazi scene.”[12]

In 1995, after Wehrschütz’ tenure with the magazine, Aula editor-in-chief Herwig Nachtmann was legally convicted of violating the Austrian Nazi Prohibition Act (Verbotsgesetz) because of his article “Laws of nature apply to Nazis and anti-fascists,” published in mid-1994, where he had praised Holocaust denier Walter Lüftl.[13] This makes it completely indisputable that the Aula was right-wing extremist before and after Wehrschütz – and only during his days there, it is supposed not to have been? By the way, one of Wehrschütz’ first interviews for the paper was with the British Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist David Irving.

After Aula, Wehrschütz served as editor-in-chief of the party newspaper of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party, the Neue Freie Zeitung (New Free Newspaper). According to his own statements, he resigned from the Freedom Party in 2002 (when he had already been working for the ORF for more than a decade). But his entire activity since then leaves little doubt that he took most or all of the “ideological baggage” from there with him and “cherishes” it to this day. He admitted this indirectly, but clearly himself (“I stand by what I wrote,” see above).

Wehrschütz’s reporting from Ukraine, to where he has traveled since the 1990s, has raised countless questions already before the large-scale Russian attack on Ukraine with the aim of destroying it as a state on 24 February 2022. And since then, Wehrschütz’s importance in ORF’s foreign policy reporting increased dramatically. He was now practically constantly on air, exerting a considerable influence on public opinion in Austria on Ukraine and Russia.

However, the viewers and listeners experienced far more his “private” interpretation of the events than their objective presentation (to which the ORF is actually legally obliged).

If Wehrschütz has ever dealt with the history, culture, traditions, etc. of Ukraine, he carefully conceals this in his oral and written statements. The question arises whether he has any basic knowledge about the country at all. Thus, he referred to Kharkiv as the “first capital of the Soviet Union” [14] (!) And he claimed that Ukraine was larger in area than France and Germany combined.[15] (!) But Ukraine occupies 603,700 square km. France (France métropolitaine) has 543,940 and Germany 357,588, which together make up 901,528 square kilometres.

And sometimes it really seemed that Wehrschütz did not report from Ukraine but from an alternative reality, a different dimension, so to speak. Has the decades of consumption of the German trash series Perry Rhodan, openly admitted by the science fiction fan Wehrschütz, taken its toll? When asked whether there were “parallels to real political events” in Perry Rhodan and to what extent “politics” there was “comparable to reality”, he literally said: “Yes, of course, I draw comparisons. I felt this particularly strongly around 9/11, for example, where the overlaps between reality and fiction were, in my opinion, especially noticeable.”[16]

2. Wehrschütz on the Euromaidan

The strictly pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has, according to Wehrschütz, done “far more” for Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU than Viktor Yushchenko (president 2005-2010) and Yulia Tymoshenko (prime minister 2005 and 2007-2010)[17]. But in fact, it was Yanukovych who refused to sign Ukraine’s EU Association Treaty in November 2013, triggering the Euromaidan. Then, Wehrschütz believed that behind the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv in 2013/14 there was “of course an organization” that “someone financed.”[18] – This conspiracy theory was and still is a central narrative of official Russia and the radical right and left parties in the EU that are close to it. On 20 February 2014, Wehrschütz drew the following picture of the events on the Maidan:

“Opposition members captured weapons caches last night. These weapons were brought to Kyiv. Police barracks were stormed. The armament of the extremist opposition is massive. This morning, the new violence has come from these extremist groups, who have sent snipers into the streets of Kyiv.”[19]

So, according to Wehrschütz, the demonstrators on the Maidan were the main instigators of the violence, at least at this time. And more than eight years after the Euromaidan, Wehrschütz still held to the “correctness” of his line at the time: thanks to his “contacts” in Yanukovych’s camp, as he praised himself, he had succeeded at the time in drawing “a far more differentiated picture” than “was offered by the usual Maidan reporting,” which had been “characterized by a one-sided good/evil scheme.”[20]

Euromaidan protests medics
Volunteer medics try to aid protesters injured by the Berkut riot police during Euromaidan protests. Photo: Maksym Liukov. 20 February 2014

In fact, Wehrschütz in his reports “overcame” this “scheme” by simply blurring the clear distinction between victims (100 dead civilians) and perpetrators (the snipers and Yanukovych’s police who shot them) on the Maidan.

3. Wehrschütz’ impressions from Crimea and the Donbas

What came to Wehrschütz’ mind about Russia‘s annexation of Crimea in March 2014? Literally: “The time in Crimea will be changed to Moscow time, because that suits the rhythm of life here better.”[21] (!)

Later, Wehrschütz asserted that Russia had invested more money in the development of Crimea between 2014 and 2019 than Ukraine had in the previous 25 years.[22] – What are the occupation and annexation of the peninsula, the massive suppression of any opposition to this (especially on the part of the Crimean Tatars), the recruitment of young men from Crimea for the Russian army (although it is forbidden under international law to call up persons from occupied territories into one’s own armed forces), the total militarization of the peninsula etc. in comparison?! And what did Wehrschütz want to achieve with such absurd comparisons – to make Russian control over Ukrainian territory seem “better,” “more understandable,” somehow “justified,” etc.?

Russian occupation of Crimea belbek
Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on March 20, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE

In his radio and TV coverages, writings, and interviews Wehrschütz countless times called the territories in Eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow since spring 2014 “pro-Russian rebel republics” (!). However, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” were always completely artificial entities established and maintained by Moscow’s armed forces and secret services, devoid of any legitimacy. At the same time, Wehrschütz used the very term “entity” to refer to Ukraine[23] which is also constantly present in the “public space” in Russia (sometimes with the addition of “artificial”), especially since 2014[24] in order to disparage and de-legitimize Ukraine.

According to Wehrschütz, Donetsk was a “pro-Russian rebel stronghold” from 2014 to 2022[25] – and not a Ukrainian city occupied by the Russian army, from which (almost) all those who reject this occupation have been expelled or had to flee (if they have not been murdered, tortured, deported, etc.). Furthermore, Wehrschütz mentioned a “Ministry of State Security” in Donetsk[26] – without any inverted commas and without any indication that this is nothing but a branch of Russian secret services. But it is important for him to note that they “always behaved correctly and politely” towards him and his team there[27]. That is an interesting contrast to the other behavior of this “ministry,” where torture and murder are part of everyday business.

Wehrschütz has interviewed Russian collaborators in Ukraine countless times since 2014 – and even Russian intelligence operative and terrorist Igor Girkin (who publicly boasted about murders of Ukrainians) – in order to put them on air. Wehrschütz obviously saw no problem in interviewing the so-called “tourism minister” and other officials installed by the Kremlin (such as Crimean Tatar collaborators) in Russian-controlled Crimea. He incorporated their ridiculous to bizarre statements into his reports – which he himself freely admitted that he did not give any assessments.

Yes, that is precisely the problem, Mr. Wehrschütz (which you do not even recognize as such): You let the pro-Kremlin babble go over the airwaves and give “no assessment” of it! This also applied to a book he published in 2014, “Focus on Ukraine,” which contained interviews with people of very different ideological orientations – including open conspiracy theorists such as Margarete Seidler, a German convert to the Russian Orthodox faith, who agitated for the Russian occupiers in the Donbas as of 2014.

At the beginning of this book, Wehrschütz praised himself as follows: “A journalist better prepared for Ukraine and for a book will not be easy to find in the German cultural area.”[28] Apart from the enormous self-confidence expressed here, you have to read that three times: “In the German cultural area”? What exactly is that supposed to mean? And what terminology is that? Is it a – conscious or unconscious – recourse to the 1930s and/or the Austrian Freedom Party milieu?

In February 2015 Wehrschütz stated that “it is clear that Putin is no longer interested in intensifying the conflict [in Donbas] because it would be extremely costly”[29] (!). Once again, one thought one had misread/heard. But unfortunately, this was not the case; he actually passed on such and many other odd “assessments” as “facts.” And on countless occasions, Wehrschütz called Putin’s soldiers, undercover agents ,and mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine from spring 2014 – often linked to local collaborators – “citizens’ militia”, “people’s militia” and ” freedom fighters”[30] (!).

Occupied Donbas on a map

This was no longer simply a “distortion” or “unfortunate wording,” but – yes, what actually? Naivety? Fear of losing “contacts” in Donetsk and to Russia in case he strays too far from Kremlin narratives? Hope in the ignorance of the audience? Or all of the above together?

And what did Wehrschütz think about the – very restrained – sanctions against Russia that the EU declared in response to the annexation of Crimea? In June 2016, the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI), which has been active in Russia for many years (and even after 24 February 2022) and still earns very good money there, organized a panel discussion on the sanctions as part of RBI’s traditional annual customer reception in Vienna. There, Rainer Seele, the then pro-Russian CEO of the Austrian oil, gas, and chemical group OMV, and RBI CEO Karl Sevelda agreed that the sanctions had “done more harm than good to all those affected.”

Wehrschütz and Austrian businessman Siegfried Wolf, chairman of the board of Russian Machines (controlled by the pro-Putin-oligarch Oleg Deripaska), “expressed a similar opinion.”[31] Incidentally, the Freedom Party is fighting the EU sanctions with all its “political powers” and has announced that it will prevent their extension in the EU if it comes to power.

4. Wehrschütz feels threatened in Ukraine

At the end of 2018, one of Putin’s Kremlin’s main propaganda weapons, the First Channel of Russian TV, ran a quite lengthy report on Wehrschütz.

Screenshot from Russia’s Channel 1

The presenter called him by his first name (!) several times as if he was talking about an old friend, ally, and confidant. And Wehrschütz, according to this “extremely credible” source, “rightly feels threatened by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists”.[32] Well, if Putin’s television says so…

In December 2018, Wehrschütz in a letter to ORF Director General Alexander Wrabetz and the Austrian government stated that he was in danger. “In Ukraine, there are militant, ultra-nationalist groups that threaten journalists who report critically on the politics of Ukraine’s leadership and try to respect the requirement for objectivity” (by which he clearly meant himself).

Wehrschütz had appeared on the website Myrotvorets (Peacemaker), which accused him of pro-Russia reporting, particularly with regard to the situation in Crimea.[33] Wehrschütz continued: “Two journalists have already been murdered, and I certainly have no intention of being the next one.” Therefore, he demanded a diplomatic intervention in his favor.[34]

This, of course, raised numerous questions. First of all, where should the problem principally be, if he, according to his own statements, had “never […] been shy in his life”[35] and had “no fear”? And courage, according to the Kronen Zeitung (which is by far the largest tabloid newspaper in Austria and has supported him for many years; see chapter 13), was “one of Wehrschütz’ great strengths”?[36] And specifically: Who was he referring to with the two “murdered journalists”?

First of all, presumably to Oles Buzina, who was shot dead in 2015 (which the Moscow propaganda immediately tried to exploit for its own purposes). The Russian opposition website Insider noted that Busina had basically distinguished himself through “impudent behavior,” insulted the (undoubtedly democratic) Ukrainian president Yushchenko as a “neo-Nazi” in 2009, and staged a brawl on a live political TV talk show in 2011. In addition, Buzina wrote a scathing book about the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). The resolutely pro-Russian Buzina made many enemies – and by no means only among Ukrainian nationalists, but also among feminists and in the LGBT community. No one was ever convicted of his murder. For this reason, too, it cannot be claimed a priori that his violent death was necessarily due to what he considered his “professional activity.” The “gut feeling” of Wehrschütz (and others) that it was nevertheless so is clearly no proof.

And who is supposed to have been Wehrschütz’s “second journalist” (if Buzina is to be considered a journalist at all – and not an agitator and propagandist)?[37] Some observers guessed Oleg Kalashnikov, who was shot dead by unknown persons in 2015 after appearing on Myrotvorets. But he had not been a journalist at all, but a former (2006-2007) MP for Yanukovych’s “Party of Regions” and, appropriately, a pro-Russian activist. Who else comes into question as a “second journalist”?

One possibility would be Pavel Sheremet, a native of Minsk, who lost his life in 2016 in Kyiv in a car bomb attack (still unsolved as of July 2023). However, this vehement critic of Putin and the Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka had never been on a list of “enemies of Ukraine.”[38] Ukrainian nationalists had no subjective reason to murder Sheremet, but Russian (and/or Belarusian) secret services did. And Wehrschütz never claimed to feel threatened by them. However, at a book presentation in Vienna on 6 October 2022, he named Sheremet as the “second murdered journalist.”[39] And that made it definitely clear that his threat scenario resolutely did not fit together from the very beginning.

5. Wehrschütz on NATO expansion into Eastern Europe

On countless occasions, Wehrschütz reiterated the story – persistently disseminated also and especially by the Russian side – of “verbal commitments by leading Western politicians” not to expand NATO to the East.[40] But when exactly are these supposed to have been made – around 1990 (the year of German reunification), when the Warsaw Pact still existed? Wehrschütz does not tell us. Rüdiger von Fritsch, 2014-2019 German ambassador to Russia (who personally met Putin and the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev), commented on this issue: “Just imagine if the American Secretary of State had promised his Soviet counterpart in the summer of 1990 not to admit Latvia to NATO – at that time an integral part of the Soviet Union”.[41] Gorbachev himself said that NATO enlargement to the East had not been discussed at all with Western leaders in 1990.[42]

In principle, oral promises (alleged or actual) of whatsoever are worthless in international relations. But even if they were not, it should be remembered that the Kremlin itself constantly breaks its own verbal promises. Thus, shortly after the military occupation of Crimea at the end of February and beginning of March 2014, Putin assured that annexation was “not planned”[43] – only to announce it himself a few days later, on 18 March. In the same speech, he also said: “We don’t want a partition of Ukraine, we don’t need that.”[44] But on 30 September 2022, Moscow declared the annexation of no less than four Ukrainian regions. And even a few days before 24 February 2022, Putin denied any intentions to attack Ukraine to the German federal chancellor (prime minister) Olaf Scholz.

Where would Wehrschütz have dealt with all these important issues? When would he also have elaborated that Russia has cynically broken countless written agreements (the Charter of the United Nations, the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the Friendship Treaty with Ukraine of 1997, which once again enshrined the territorial integrity of the contracting parties) with complete impunity so far? And that the right of every country (and therefore also of Ukraine) to join (or not join) military alliances (such as NATO) is enshrined, among other things, at the very beginning of the Helsinki Final Act of the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE)?

After the collapse of the USSR, the corresponding passage was taken over, mutatis mutandis, in documents of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), among others, under which Russia’s signature also appears. And the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation of 1997 did not contain a waiver of NATO’s eastward enlargement, but emphasized (in full conformity with international law) an “inherent right” of all states “to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents.”[45]

So if, in the opinion of whichever European states (and therefore also Ukraine, whose territorial integrity Russia has trampled on since 2014 at the latest, although it has recognized it in several bilateral and multilateral documents, including the Friendship Treaty with Ukraine), membership in an alliance should be part of their policy, it is impossible to see what could be legally and/or logically objected to this. Moreover, Russia itself is a member of a military alliance, namely the so-called “Collective Security Treaty Organisation.” How, therefore, can it summarily “forbid” other states to join whatever alliance they want?

But of course, Wehrschütz (and his followers) do not say a word about all this. And his position is – coincidence or not – fully compatible with the line of the Freedom Party, which its chairman Herbert Kickl outlined as follows at a party conference on 17 September 2022: The US and NATO had expanded their “sphere of influence” more and more and thus “cornered Russia.”[46]

The champagne corks must have been popping in the Russian embassy in Vienna. Kickl took the cake in mid-December 2022 when he described the EU sanctions against Russia in the National Council (the lower house of the Austrian parliament) as “the result of a stupid and irresponsible policy of apportioning blame in the war between Russia and Ukraine” and called on Austria’s federal chancellor Karl Nehammer to “stay out of it” instead of “dragging Austria deeper and deeper into the conflict” with “warmongering”[47] (!).

Putin, on the other hand, has never been accused of “warmongering” by Kickl. Nor by Wehrschütz, by the way.

Wehrschütz actually believes that NATO is capable of doing a lot of bad things, and he constantly conveys this opinion to his audience. Thus, he repeatedly imagined the “stationing of medium-range missiles” in Ukraine, “which would take three or four minutes to hit Moscow.” No one in NATO or Ukraine had even thought of such a “deployment,” let alone realized it; but that did not bother Wehrschütz. He simply repeated stories from the Moscow propaganda kitchen and presented them as a real possibility.

So, Putin had literally meant: “If US and NATO missile systems appear in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be reduced to seven to ten minutes, and if hypersonic weapons are deployed, to five minutes.”[48] In this context, it is important to note that Wehrschütz completely ignored the stationing of Iskander missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, known since at least 2016, from where they could actually hit Berlin, Copenhagen, and Warsaw within minutes of launch[49]. Instead, he demanded on numerous occasions, completely unabashedly, that “Russian security concerns be taken into account.”[50]

Thus, he was referring to the “interests” of the very country that threatens other countries, invades them, sets up puppet states on their territory, etc. And Russia unleashed the biggest European war since World War due to “the NATO threat” in Ukraine but couldn’t care less about Finland and Sweden joining the same alliance. Moscow even withdrew massive numbers of troops from the border with Finland – how could that be, when NATO posed “a great danger”? And why did Wehrschütz not take care of all these obvious contradictions?

6. Wehrschütz’ expertise in military technology issues

Wehrschütz said that for war reporters – apart from journalistic skills – there is also “what you need to know about weapons systems”.[51] This is definitely correct. Unfortunately, he is clueless. His reports were countless times odd to the point of tragicomic. Only a few “highlights” can be recalled here.

Wehrschütz said that a modern tactical nuclear bomb would have roughly the explosive power of the American “Hiroshima bomb” of 1945.[52] – This statement is largely pointless: This device (called “Little Boy”) had an explosive force of about 15 kilotons of TNT; the smallest tactical nuclear weapons in service today have about 0.3-0.5 kilotons, the largest 50[53] or maybe 100 kilotons[54] (and possibly even more; the nuclear powers – unsurprisingly – “spare” precise information here).

And in an article for the Kronen Zeitung, Wehrschütz mentioned “2,000 nuclear weapons” on the territory of Ukraine at the moment of the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.[55] What is meant here by “nuclear weapons” – warheads or delivery systems (one of which can sometimes carry several warheads)? Not even that is clear. In fact, there were 130 UR-100N intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with six warheads each, 46 RT-23 ICBMs with ten warheads each, and 33 nuclear-tipped long-range bombers in Ukraine at the time, bringing the total number of strategic warheads to about 1,700.[56] The number of tactical nuclear warheads in Ukraine was predominantly estimated at 3,000 to 4,000. – So where did Wehrschütz’ figure of 2,000 come from? It remains a mystery.

In late February and early March 2022, Wehrschütz portrayed the situation in and around Kyiv as “increasingly desperate” (for the defenders). The Ukrainians, he said, were unable to attack a 65-kilometer-long Russian military convoy, indicating a “certain weakness in missiles and artillery.” For Wehrschütz, an “encirclement of Kyiv” was “imminent”.[57]

In reality, however, there was absolutely no such thing. The convoy was stopped and partially destroyed by the Ukrainian defenders. It disappeared “without a trace” from the media coverage (and also that of Wehrschütz), and at the end of March and beginning of April 2022, the Russian invaders were pushed out of the entire north of Ukraine. The defense of the capital went on in a disciplined (albeit often improvised) manner, there was nowhere even the slightest mention of mass panic among the population or an imminent collapse of the army and/or the Government of Ukraine. A “despair of the Ukrainians” was mentioned only by Wehrschütz.

He was also permanently mistaken in his assessment of Ukrainian air defense. At the beginning of June 2022, for example, he said that Russia had “obviously de facto almost unrestricted air sovereignty” over Ukraine, which, according to him, had no longer “any relevant air defense.”[58] He repeated this several times over a period of several months. Thus, in January 2023, he again identified a “notorious weakness” of Ukrainian air defenses.[59]

But this, again, had little to do with the facts. What was the situation really like? Here is a voice from the end of August 2022:

“Russia failed to establish air superiority, capture Kyiv, or take any major cities in northern Ukraine; and the Donbas campaign is locked in a virtual stalemate. Despite estimates that Russia would establish air superiority within seventy-two hours, Russian forces have failed to control the skies, and have suffered huge aircraft losses that have hindered their air support for the ground invasion.”[60]

Or better Austrian voices? Here we go! Brigadier Philipp Eder, Head of the Military Strategy Department of the Ministry of Defence, judged in the second week of September 2022 that the Russian Air Force had at no time managed to “achieve air superiority over Ukraine” and played hardly any role in supporting the infantry.[61] The following month, Colonel Berthold Sandtner of the National Defence Academy in Vienna said that “the Russians […] do not control Ukrainian airspace at all”; and Ukraine’s air defences are “getting better and better.”[62]

This was now already the exact opposite of what Wehrschütz never got tired of claiming. Contrary to his statements, Ukrainian air defense became better and better as the war continued – of course also and especially thanks to Western supplies. Thus, from May 2023, it was also able to shoot down the Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which the Kremlin had long celebrated as “impossible to defend against.”

US Patriots in Ukraine intercept 15 Russian hypersonic missiles
Fragments of Kinzhal missile intercepted over Kyiv which were published by Defense Express on 5 May 2023.

On 16 May 2023, Wehrschütz criticized (!) the cost of defending against the Russian air attack on Kyiv the night before: a Patriot defensive missile would cost over $5 million, which, in the case of a single Russian attack, 30 fired to defend against it had cost $150 million.

At first it was completely unclear where the figure of “5 million” was supposed to come from. The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) – the only version that the US is currently procuring – costs about $4.1 million apiece. PAC-2 cost about half that.[63] It was not clear what kind of Patriot systems have been donated to Ukraine, but it is likely that it has at least some of the newer PAC-3 CRI interceptors.[64]

In any case, it was obvious that Wehrschütz’ calculation of $150 million was invalid. But even if it was true: Mr. Wehrschütz, should one allow oneself to be shot at and killed by Russian missiles, including Kinzhal, because air defence is too expensive for you?

Wehrschütz avoided criticism of Putin or the Russian army with embarrassing precision even in view of the shelling of Kyiv, which could also kill him during his presence right there. He only remarked that “we didn’t need an alarm clock this morning. At two o’clock in the morning, Austrian time was boom, boom, boom.”[65]

Apart from the fact that a correspondent of a public broadcaster should be able to use rhetoric other than “boom, boom,” Wehrschütz withheld a reference to the immense costs of the ever-new air attacks on Ukrainian cities for Russia from his audience for inexplicable reasons, although they are enormous: according to Ukrainian estimates (Russia, of course, does not publish corresponding figures), the air attack on Kyiv in the night from 15 to 16 May 2023 cost at least $119 million.[66] (!)

In May 2023 alone, the Russian army undertook 20 waves of attacks with a total of at least 563 missiles and kamikaze drones on the whole of Ukraine (mostly Kyiv was also and especially affected). The costs for this could be calculated at over $1.7 billion[67] (!), without Wehrschütz having found any reason to complain (by the way, about 90% of all these missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defense). And of course, most Ukrainian cities would have been reduced to rubble long ago without the air defenses that were overpriced for Wehrschütz.

But what “message” does he actually want to convey with such odd “calculations”? Does he want to say that (which, by the way, is trumpeted practically every day by the Austrian Freedom Party in accordance with Moscow propaganda narratives as well) foreign aid to Ukraine, which was and is to a considerable extent responsible for the functioning of Ukrainian air defense, is much too costly and should therefore no longer be financed by Western taxpayers?

In mid-April 2022, Wehrschütz announced that “Americans would be sitting inside” drones (!) to be delivered to Ukraine.[68] Mr.Wehrschütz.Drones.Are.Unmanned. 

Such and countless other breathtaking and embarrassing blunders are allowed by a correspondent who likes to refer persistently (and, among other things, on his homepage) to his status as a militia officer of the Austrian Armed Forces – rank: Major (on his LinkedIn page, however, he states that he has not been in this capacity since May 2017, so what is true?).

Screenshot from Wehrschütz’s Linkedin page

One of Wehrschütz’s favorite methods of reporting is the notorious “bothsideism.” It is (also) demonstrated by the fact that he identifies Western, Ukrainian, and Russian “propaganda” and puts them on the same level, names them in the same sentence, and so on.

This constantly leads to completely breathtaking statements such as the one about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: there it is “clear” for Wehrschütz that “both sides” would try to “capitalize on it.” Ukraine, he claims, is “using” the situation around the power plant “to somehow keep the war in the consciousness of the West”[69] (!).

In addition, Wehrschütz also reported for months that it was “unclear” who was actually shooting near the power plant. He thus indirectly but clearly implied that it is quite possible that Ukraine is attacking its own power plant without giving any rational reason (i.e. not based on any conspiracy theories) for such an action, which would be complete madness. After all, in such a case, Ukraine would cause a massive risk to bring about a disaster on its own territory, which could affect many millions of its own citizens. Moreover, Ukraine’s energy supply still depends to a large extent on precisely this power plant. And it has long since been completely clarified – among other things by satellite images – that Russia has converted the power plant into a military base and is carrying out combat operations, including missile launches, from there.

But Wehrschütz simply didn’t care and stuck to his line completely unperturbed.

7. Wehrschütz demands “negotiations” with Putin

In parallel to all his factual errors, Wehrschütz stubbornly demanded “negotiations with Russia.” Thus, a few days after the beginning of Russia’s large-scale attack on Ukraine, he said that “one had to come to terms with Russia.”[70] He could hardly be more out of touch with reality: how are you supposed to “negotiate” with an enemy who attacks another country in order to “wipe it off the map” and to make an entire people, the Ukrainians, disappear through mass murder, deportations, expulsions, and “ethnic cleansing”?

A completely absurd Wehrschütz accusation against the Ukrainian leadership was that it had not prepared its own public “for the fact that there will have to be painful compromises [with Putin].” The belief of many Ukrainians in a victory over the Russian invaders would “make compromise more difficult.”[71] (!)

According to this “logic,” believing in one’s own defeat is much better because this would contribute to reaching a “compromise.” And what should or could such a “compromise” look like in concrete terms – against the background of the undeniable fact that Russia wants to completely destroy Ukraine as a state and the Ukrainians as a people (which Wehrschütz usually does not mention at all)? An only “partial annihilation” of Ukraine and its people?

Wehrschütz did not reveal it. Instead, he talked about a future “Ukrainian rump state” (!), which he obviously envisages as being considerably smaller in territorial terms, because: “We don’t know what the borders [of Ukraine] will look like”[72] (!?). According to Wehrschütz, there was “no perspective for an honorable peace” for Ukraine (!). And further: a “European security architecture” is “not feasible without Moscow” (!).

Wehrschütz thus wants to make such an “architecture” dependent on a Kremlin that embodies a neo-totalitarian, extremely nationalist, militarist, and imperialist regime, murders opposition figures at home and abroad, carries out terrorist attacks (such as on ammunition depots in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria), has kept the Assad regime in Syria – which used chemical weapons against its own people – in power by means of military intervention since 2015 (in the context of which the Russians are fighting with the Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist terrorist organization “Hezbollah”), has “flooded” the EU with refugees (from the Middle East, especially since 2015 and from Ukraine since 2022) and has militarily overrun and partially occupied Georgia and Ukraine.

Wehrschütz should be asked precisely the question that Franziska Davies and Anna Veronika Wendland addressed to all those who claim that the West has failed to integrate Russia into a “security architecture”: “How do you integrate a state into a security order whose basic principles it rejects?”[73]

Such an “architecture” (admittedly never described in detail by Wehrschütz) would be completely pointless without the postulate of inviolability of international borders, i.e. borders formally recognized by Russia. Yet, of all things, the same Russia has never accepted the borders of several former Soviet republics since the end of the USSR but has created and/or supported puppet states such as the “Dniester Republic” (Moldova), the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (Ukraine), Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgia) as well as Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan; here, of course, the close Russian ally Armenia was “interposed”) on their territories.

It would therefore be urgently necessary – in complete contrast to Wehrschütz’s prejudices, which cannot be shaken by any facts – to completely exclude such a Russia from the design of any future “European security architecture” in order to secure peace; it should instead be designed to protect European countries against Putin’s aggressive empire.

Russia is a country that is currently reducing Ukraine to rubble – and still feels its “security interests” are “threatened.” As if that were not absurd enough, many in the West, including in the media, politics, and social sciences, are mindlessly parroting it.

Ukraine and its right to exist with secure borders and in control of its entire territory simply fall by the wayside. And Wehrschütz “warned,” of all things, against a possibly “weakened Russia” (!). One would like to have such worries! It doesn’t even occur to him that the more militarily, politically, and economically weakened Russia is, the less able it would be to threaten and attack other countries, to annex their territory, etc.

Instead, Wehrschütz demands that the “West” “talk to Russia.“ And: “Wars with a nuclear power can only be solved through negotiations [which is false: for example, the Taliban drove the nuclear power USA out of Afghanistan in 2021 – author]. There will have to be negotiations.”[74]

But all these calls for “negotiations” with Putin are all the more incomprehensible because they have taken place on countless occasions since 1999 – the beginning of Putin’s rule. And this led precisely to his decision to wage a war of conquest and destruction against Ukraine from 24 February 2022. The harsh reality is: Ukraine is currently being destroyed by the Russian “dialogue partners” of the “West.” But Wehrschütz does not see through this, as obvious as it is.

So, Wehrschütz wants to “talk” and “negotiate” with a Putin who, literally since his first days in the Kremlin (1999), has been starting one war after another, annexing foreign land (Ukraine, de facto Georgia), deliberately bombing the civilian population and its infrastructure (Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria), causing environmental disasters (and not “only” by blowing up the Kakhovka dam on 6 June 2023), having his soldiers commit massive sexual violence against the civilian population (including children) from the very beginning, shelling previously negotiated “humanitarian corridors” for Ukrainian civilians, mining the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia and “converting” it into a Russian military base, deports millions of Ukrainians to Russia (preferably to remote areas), attempts to cause famine (by blockading Ukrainian ports and destroying the local infrastructure), and, especially in the winter of 2022/23, deliberately tried to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in order to expose the population to cold; contaminating whole areas of Ukraine with mines (and even building them into everyday objects, children’s toys, etc.). ), threatening with nuclear weapons, and blathering that “the Western elites […] are spreading open satanism” and would “test biological weapons on living people, including in Ukraine”.[75]

Moreover, it is completely unclear what should be “negotiated” with Russia (in the sense of Wehrschütz). Nor is this necessary to end the war: all that is needed is a single decision by Putin to do just that and to withdraw Russian troops from the whole of Ukraine. Precisely that – and nothing else – would be a preliminary step towards a “solution” to the conflict.

According to Wehrschütz, Ukraine’s defensive war has “meanwhile become a proxy war between Russia and the US”, which “is a huge problem.”[76] It is important to note that the “proxy war” story is also, and especially, actively championed by the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpiece (and part-time foreign minister) Sergei Lavrov[77] and the warmongers on Putin’s state television with the notorious Vladimir Solovyov at the helm.[78]

In complete accordance with the fairy tale of the “proxy war” that he repeated many times, Wehrschütz demanded “peace negotiations” not even or not primarily between Kyiv and Moscow, but between Washington and Moscow (!).

For example, in mid-November 2022 he announced on ORF’s main evening news: “Peace is only achievable in Ukraine if there is an agreement between Moscow and Washington.” Thus, again: he implicitly but clearly denies Ukraine the status of an independent actor with appropriate and legitimate interests (such as protection against the Russian mass murderers) and massively approximates the Russian narrative according to which Ukraine is, after all, only a “tool in Washington’s hands.” And Wehrschütz continues categorically and not plagued by any self-doubt: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has to “abandon preconditions such as ‘There will be no negotiations with Putin’ and ‘You cannot negotiate with Russia until all troops have been withdrawn'” from Ukraine. Because, and Wehrschütz knows this very well: “These are simply not preconditions for negotiations” (?).

Moreover, he explicitly demanded “American pressure” – but not on the aggressor Russia (which would be urgently needed to increase the chances of ending the conflict), but on the victim Ukraine[79] (!). This was once again precociousness, uninformedness, and naivety stirred together into a (completely unenjoyable) “cocktail.” In November 2022, the European Parliament declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”[80]; Wehrschütz did not care and continued unimpressed to demand “negotiations” with this “sponsor.”

8. Wehrschütz questions Ukraine‘s territorial integrity

Wehrschütz’ statement quoted above “We don’t know what the borders [of Ukraine] will look like” allows no other interpretation than that he wants to put Ukraine’s borders up for disposition. However, Ukraine’s constitution (Article 2) is absolutely unambiguous: “The territory of Ukraine within its present borders is indivisible and inviolable.”

Furthermore, the law “On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime in the Temporarily Occupied Territories,” first adopted in 2014, makes it explicit that Ukraine is obliged to take back these territories (Articles 4-1 and 17-2); of course, there is no provision for ceding them to another country.[81] And the president of Ukraine is the guarantor of state sovereignty, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the observance of the constitution, and the rights and freedoms of man and citizen (Article 102 of the constitution).

Therefore, if he wanted to sign a treaty on the handover of territories to Russia, he would be impeached by parliament for high treason in full compliance with the constitution and the laws of the country and taken to where he belonged – to court.

Where would Wehrschütz have ever explained these issues, which are of central importance for any peace solution, to his audience?

Ukraine could theoretically be forced to submit to a multilateral dictate, specifically to do to it what Nazi Germany, Britain and Italy did to Czechoslovakia in Munich in September 1938: Some “powers” – probably (besides Russia) the US and the EU – decide among themselves and without any consent or even participation of the victim (i.e. Ukraine) that it has to surrender territories in order to secure “peace for our time” – like the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain said in his boundless naivety towards Hitler.

Now, one should actually know how that matter went on[82] (and good intentions cannot justify or “sanctify,” or even “explain,” the disastrous outcome of an undertaking). Does Wehrschütz nevertheless want to advocate such a downright adventurous “solution”? In any case, it is only astonishing that the Ukrainian authorities did not even take the fact that Wehrschütz, who is himself a lawyer by training, repeatedly and unequivocally called into question the territorial integrity unequivocally enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution as a reason to expel him. And the same authorities could well have taken offence (but they did not) at the fact that Wehrschütz is a correspondent from a country that continues to maintain close economic contacts with Russia and buys energy sources from it for huge sums, thus helping to finance the war against Ukraine.

Between February 2022 and August 2023, Austria transferred around EUR9 billion for energy supplies to the Russian war chest.[83] And where exactly would Wehrschütz have addressed this in his reporting?

9. Wehrschütz and Russian war crimes

Wehrschütz commented on Facebook on the Russian atrocities against the civilian population of Bucha, a now world-famous suburb of Kyiv, that one must also “understand the other [i.e. Russian] side” and “not forget” that “we need a solution for Ukraine.”[84]

This is correct, Mr. Wehrschütz. It would simply consist of the unconditional withdrawal of the Russian terrorist army from all of Ukraine, but of course that is not what you mean here. Incidentally or not, the phrase “also understand the other side” was also found verbatim by Freedom Party leader Kickl.[85]

And Wehrschütz continued mercilessly: “The pictures from Bucha are terrible – but the hypocrisy of the West and its misguided policies of the past 30 years are terrible.”[86]

Bucha execution
Executions of civilians in Bucha were uncovered when the Ukrainian army liberated this Kyiv suburb from Russian occupation. Photo: Dattalion

What does that mean? That it is not Putin who is to blame for the mass murder in Ukraine in general and in Bucha specifically, but a “hypocrisy of the West”? What is this “hypocrisy” supposed to consist of? It remains completely unclear, Wehrschütz does not tell us. But that’s how it is with the “Journalist of the Year” (2014 according to the magazine The Austrian Journalist), who can remain in office at the ORF even after such unbearable outbursts, as if nothing had happened.

In an early assessment of the Russian atrocities in Butcha on ORF radio channel Ö1, Wehrschütz did not want to speak of a “massacre […] yet.” “An international investigation would be very appropriate.” He urged caution with regard to the portrayal of the situation on the part of Ukraine, because one should not forget “the second dimension of these pictures. That is the fact that it is about influencing public opinion.”

In general, for Wehrschütz it was questionable “whether all the people who were lying around” (!) were victims of Russian war crimes. “There was massive fighting in this place on the first days and the Russians were shot up there.”[87] (!)

mass graves
Exhumation and re-burial of bodies of murdered civilians in Bucha, Kyiv Oblast. Photo: courtesy of Anatoliy Fedoruk, mayor of Bucha

Wehrschütz insisted that “as bad as images and crimes may be – the word ‘presumably’ must not be missing from the journalist’s vocabulary!”[88]

In his book of 2022, Wehrschütz also insisted that it should be “presumably” everywhere. So, in Bucha, there had been, at least for him, “alleged Russian war crimes”[89]. Only later Wehrschütz did deign to acknowledge Russian “mass crimes” in Bucha,[90] which he, however, immediately put into perspective by asking the following rhetorical question on Austrian Television: “Who is actually still talking about Bucha today?“[91] (!).

It was equally disturbing that Wehrschütz on 9 April 2022 complained on Twitter (now X) that “others” (i.e. his critics) were not mourning enough for the (according to Ukrainian figures) approximately 20,000 Russian soldiers killed by then (!). One has to picture this: Wehrschütz literally called those who did not really felt sorry for Putin’s cutthroats “brutes”[92] (!).

Wehrschütz wants to give the impression that he is “objective” when he accuses “both sides” (i.e. puts victims and perpetrators on the same level), seeks the “truth” in an imagined “middle” between the official statements of Ukraine and Russia or simply quotes these statements. Of course, this is the notorious “bothsideism” and has nothing to do with critical-objective journalism, but parodies it. The following sentences are typical for Wehrschütz:

“In Ukraine, the police, judiciary and forensic experts have begun to open another mass grave. It is located in a wooded area outside the town of Izium, which was recaptured by Ukrainian troops about a week ago. According to the police, 445 people have been given makeshift burials there. Ukraine speaks of war crimes for which Russia is responsible, which rejects these accusations.”[93]

Occupation-time cemetery in liberated Izium, Kharkiv Oblast. 19 September 2022. Photo: Oleksandra Novosel/Suspilne

There it is again, the “equidistance” and “neutrality”: Ukraine finds mass graves, accuses Russia – and Wehrschütz dutifully reports that the latter denies everything (of course; did anyone expect a frank confession of war crimes?).

And the readers/listeners of Wehrschütz are now allowed to do what? Assume that the truth lies “halfway” between these two viewpoints? Or tell themselves that Wehrschütz obviously does not exclude the possibility that “the Ukrainians” massacred their own people in order to accuse Russia?

The world-renowned historian Timothy Snyder of Yale University said about this complex of problems (without referring to specific persons): “One thing that almost everyone gets wrong is the reporting of official Russian statements. […] It is a mistake to put the Russian and Ukrainian views on an equal footing.”[94]

Basically, Wehrschütz’ reporting on the countless Russian war crimes, which the United Nations[95], among others, have identified, was on the back burner. And where and when did he – decently, not en passant – address the fact that Moscow has deported millions of Ukrainians – mostly to remote areas of Russia? Several observers have stated that Russia is committing genocide by doing so.[96]

But Wehrschütz dismissed this: “It is a war that is being waged with the handbrake on. Nobody wants a real escalation.”[97] (!) This has to be read (at least) three times, otherwise one would not believe this incompetence, arrogance, downplaying of the Russian war of extermination against Ukraine and lack of any empathy for the Ukrainian war victims.

10. August 2023: The Wehrschütz TV scandal takes its course

The “Zeit im Bild” report was immediately scrutinized by critics and sceptics, and the pro-Wehrschütz camp also took a stand. The notorious Richard Schmitt of the Austrian tabloid website Exxpress (whose pro-Russian bias is well known) immediately defended his buddy Wehrschütz without bothering to offer a single argument that could invalidate the criticism for falsely attributing content to the videos he had featured.

Instead, Schmitt fantasized about “wild attacks against ORF for alleged ‘pro-Russian propaganda'” and condemned “criticism of ORF for info that hundreds of other news channels also featured” (as if Wehrschütz’ failure would be excused, justified or explained by the blunders of other “news channels”).

In addition, Schmitt even threatened – strangely enough, in the name of the ORF, with which he formally has nothing to do: whether the ORF “legal department will intervene against these attacks [on Wehrschütz] is not yet known.” (!) So should this legal department take literally every Wehrschütz sceptic to court – regardless of the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Austrian constitution?

And Schmitt continued: „All media that not only disseminate the information requested by the Ukrainian government are brutally attacked – as is well known, eXXpress[98] was also confronted with a savage character assassination campaign when the ambassador of the Russian Federation in Austria was able to express his view on the war in an interview. In addition, all those social media users who advocate ceasefire negotiations and an end to the killing are also insulted as ‘peace sworn’ or ‘Putin servants’ – an absolute novelty in the 134-year tradition of the European peace movement since Bertha von Suttner (‚Lay Down Your Arms!‘, published in 1889).“[99]

This is all terrible, conspiracy-theory-tinged nonsense. And it is only tragicomic to call the Austrian Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1901, Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914), as a witness for the pro-Russian position of Exxpress. Of course, Putin could end the war any day by ordering his army to cease fire and withdraw from all of Ukraine. But Schmitt (unsurprisingly) did not come up with this simple idea. And “brutally attacked,” Mr Schmitt, is Ukraine. By Russia’s army. Whose ambassador is allowed to spread “his view” – the correct term would be: war propaganda – in your medium.[100]

And what happened next? Andre Wolf from the Platform for Investigating Internet Fraud and False News (Mimikama), among others, examined the accusation that the ORF was spreading false news. He quickly came to the conclusion that the broadcaster “unfortunately fell for the tricks of Russian propaganda.”[101]

And how did the ORF itself react? Initially, a spokesperson said in a dismissive and ostentatiously condescending tone: “To accuse the ORF of ‘Russian propaganda’ is absurd and self-judging. The videos under question, which were also shown by a large number of European TV stations, were obtained by ORF via a reliable and trustworthy source.”

Then, however, the ORF in a further statement on the evening of 17 August 2023, suddenly was meek: “Further research by the ORF and a renewed check have shown that the videos from Ukraine referred to do not correspond to the content conveyed in the ‘Zeit im Bild’ of 15 August 2023, which the ORF deeply regrets.”

And: “If mistakes are made, they must be named as such and corrected. ORF will do this in ‘Zeit im Bild’ and of course correct the contribution about the Ukraine videos. In addition, ORF-TV-Information will take this as an opportunity to deal on-air with the topic of fake news in the information war.”[102]

Of course, this TV scandal was immediately discussed in various Austrian media. The investigative homepage ZackZack said that the two videos originated “directly from Russian propaganda channels, which have been using the topic of forced mobilizations to create sentiment against Ukraine for a long time. The ZiB1 contribution is by Christian Wehrschütz, who has repeatedly been criticised for his reporting. […] According to various sources, there has been a great deal of resentment against him [Wehrschütz] within ORF for years. Why, for example, Wehrschütz almost single-handedly does all the reporting from Ukraine is incomprehensible to many.”[103]

ZackZack‘s Florian Bayer, but also other journalists who investigated this Wehrschütz affair, complained repeatedly that they were ignored or fobbed off with prefabricated statements by the ORF Press Service.[104]

And what did Wehrschütz himself do? On X he stated on 17 August 2023:

“In the ZiB1 report on corruption in Ukraine, videos were used that I did not check additionally because they came from a reputable source. This mistake will be a lesson to me, the first in 23 years as a correspondent. The mistake does not change the correctness of the report!”[105]

That was Wehrschütz all over: unbearably dismissive and know-it-all. He literally contradicted the “This mistake will be a lesson to me” in the next phrase: “The mistake does not change the correctness of the report!”

One has to read this three times, otherwise it is really unbelievable: What kind of “correctness” can one speak of, if the sources selected and used by Wehrschütz himself (the two videos mentioned above) simply did not fit the basic statement of his report? And the claim that it was his “first mistake in 23 years as a correspondent” is downright bizarre. ZackZack commented that it was “certainly” wrong that Wehrschütz “spread pro-Russian false messages for the first time […]. In 2022 he reported the death of a [Canadian] sniper in Ukraine, but the claim was fictitious. This was pointed out by the fact-checkers of ‘Correctiv,’ for example.”[106]

Werschutz Russian propaganda Austria

An apology worthy that name from Wehrschütz personally to the broadcasting audience as well as to his employer (who suffered a clear loss of image) for his false sources was completely missing in his X-message of 17 August. Instead of being contrite and reserved, he was demonstratively arrogant and self-confident. He obviously did not expect his employer, the ORF, to draw any consequences for him (such as dismissing him from Ukraine) – and he was (unfortunately) to be proved right: The ORF management backed him unreservedly.

On 18 August, ORF apologised for the false sources in the report three days earlier, but without even mentioning Wehrschütz! He remained at his post in Ukraine as if that was the most natural thing in the world and continued completely unchanged. In an interview with the Kronen Zeitung he expressed this literally as follows: “I will not be dissuaded.” [107] At this point at the latest and in view of such terminology, the question arose massively whether this gentleman could be an ideologically motivated fanatic.

Notwithstanding numerous inconsistencies in Wehrschütz’ opinions and activities, many of his friends and fans in Austrian politics and media joined the public debate on his side. This was done, for example, by the spokesman of Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Daniel Kosak (who linked[108] to an embarrassing glorification of Wehrschütz in the Viennese daily newspaper Kurier[109]) and the spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, Michael Bauer (who linked to a Wehrschütz interview for the Tiroler Tageszeitung [Tyrolean Daily Paper]).[110] The Kronen Zeitung published numerous letters to the editor pro Wehrschütz, and his enthusiasts on the social networks showed drastically increased activity: they insulted and offended Wehrschütz sceptics and critics, mobbed and trolled them.

Only a few days after the scandal for which he was responsible in “Zeit im Bild,” namely on 19 August 2023, Wehrschütz released on ORF Radio an interview with the, as he called him, “acting head” (!) of the Moscow-controlled nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, who had been appointed by the Russian invaders.

It would actually have been the next scandal that Wehrschütz – as, incidentally, many times before – gave the floor to a representative of the Russian occupying power in Ukraine. But nobody inside or outside the ORF cared about that – and certainly not about the fact that Wehrschütz did not ask this pathetic and despicable collaborator a single critical question and let him philosophise freely about the Russian occupying forces on the site of the power plant “to protect this object”[111] (!). Wehrschütz recorded all this as if it was perfectly normal – and ORF had it aired without any objections. Wehrschütz’ behaviour can hardly be described as anything other than provocation in view of the scandal that was just a few days old at the time, with its false source information for the “Zeit im Bild” coverage.

As if that were not strange enough, on the same day, i.e. 19 August 2023, the Kronen Zeitung published a letter written by Wehrschütz in which he rejected the accusation of a pro-Russian stance as “simply false and malicious”.[112]

The reactions among the journalists, political scientists and other observers who were critical of him varied between incredulous amazement, frowning, guffawing laughter, shaking heads and other unambiguous gestures.

But on the other hand, what else could have been expected? That Wehrschütz would, for example, proclaim: “Look here, folks, I’m a pro-Russian, I’m not ashamed of it and I show it in my reporting”? Of course he will never do that.

But it is quite possible that Wehrschütz, according to his naturally strictly subjective opinion, does indeed not consider himself to be pro-Russian – and in particular because very probably most, if not all, Freedom Party supporters with and without membership cards of this party consider their position towards Putin’s Russia to be completely “normal,” “objective,” and “neutral.” When the Freedom Party’s parliamentary group in the National Council left the plenary chamber on 30 March 2023 because it could not reconcile it with its “collective conscience” to listen to the video address of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, i.e. the president of a state threatened with annihilation by Russia such as Ukraine, it did so by invoking “neutrality” and denying el pro-Russian motivation (!).

FPÖ verlässt Nationalrat aus Protest während der Rede des ukrainischen Präsidenten.
30 March 2023: The members of the Freedom Party’s parliamentary group in the Austrian National Council left the plenary hall in unison before Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech, leaving behind signs (“For Peace,” “For Neutrality”).

The fact is that there is not a sheet of paper that fits between the Freedom Party’s “neutrality” and Wehrschütz’ so-called “objectivity”.

11. Wehrschütz’ accreditation in Ukraine is in doubt

Florian Klenk, editor-in-chief of the Viennese weekly newspaper Falter, which otherwise opposes the Freedom Party and is decidedly left-wing, reacted on X to the news in the Austrian press that Wehrschütz could lose his accreditation as a journalist in Ukraine as follows: “That would not be good at all. Ukraine has to follow the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Freedom of the press is also enshrined there.”[113] In Klenk’s opinion, a “threatening” withdrawal of Wehrschütz’ accreditation” must not be accepted unchallenged by the domestic media scene and above all by the ORF”.[114]

It seems very strange to postulate that the presence of Wehrschütz in Ukraine should be decisive or even constitutive for the freedom of the press there. What Klenk completely ignored was that Ukraine was ranked 79th in the World Press Freedom Index for 2023, when Russia was 164th. For comparison: Norway – 1st, Austria – 29th, US – 45th, North Korea – 180th (and last). Ukraine’s ranking was all the more astonishing because it had improved greatly (!) during the war: in 2022 it had only been 106th in the same index (Russia 155th). And this despite the “censorship” constantly complained about by Wehrschütz & Co and the “worries” of Klenk and numerous others in Austria about press freedom in Ukraine.

But Klenk’s argument is also clearly irrelevant from a legal point of view, because the European Convention on Human Rights provides for exceptions to the “unrestricted” freedom of the press (enshrined in Article 10). Article 15 (1) states:

“In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.”[115]

Although Klenk himself is a holder of a law diploma, he did not care about that in his pro-Wehrschütz roundabout. Klenk just haughtily brushed aside the completely unambiguous exception of the European Convention on Human Rights: according to him, there were “softer means to react to Wehrschütz instead of revoking his visa.”

Which ones? Klenk was unfortunately silent about that. Instead, from a very high horse – and addressed to a country fighting for its existence – he simply decreed categorically from his office in Vienna, where there are no sirens wailing in warning of the next Russian air attack, that Ukraine “must tolerate journalists like Wehrschütz.” Moreover, Klenk defiantly ordered hat “Ukraine must not decide who reports for ORF from Kyiv.”[116]

But there is simply no obligation under international law (or otherwise) for the Ukrainian authorities to tolerate Wehrschütz in the country. Nevertheless, Ukraine has done so for a quarter of a century (!) – but there was not a word about this in the Falter or on Klenk’s X account. And if Ukraine has to continue to “put up with” Wehrschütz, then he should actually – strictly logically speaking – “put up with” criticism without constantly activating his lawyers. The same Wehrschütz for whom Klenk demanded “freedom of the press” has for years wanted to restrict precisely this – when it comes to his critics – with the help of his lawyers from the Lansky law firm (see chapter 12.). But Klenk did not notice this contradiction either (or kept it to himself for inexplicable reasons).

Actually, there were only two possibilities to explain Klenk’s behaviour in the Wehrschütz affair:

  1. He did not really know for whom he “stepped into the breach” here;
  2. Or he knew, but did it anyway.

In case 1), the authors of this paper have compiled an overview of Wehrschütz’s journalistic “highlights,” which was far from complete but nevertheless 47 pages long and which they urged Klenk to read carefully. But he left this unanswered. That was hardly surprising; presumably he had simply run out of pro-Wehrschütz arguments, but he certainly did not want to admit that.

Case 2) would be a veritable disaster because it would mean that the Falter stood up for an ORF correspondent who began his “career” in the extreme right-wing Aula and continued in the Freedom Party newspaper – and whose demarcation from right-wing radicalism is not always clear even after three decades in the ORF.

The ORF radio channel Ö1 tried to “come to terms” with the TV scandal of 15 August with its own programme on 1 September 2023.[117]

It said, surprisingly “self-critically,” about Wehrschütz that he can act the way he does “because he has an enormous standing with the ORF leadership, which is based on his prominence through his many years as a reporter as well as on his good networking in the Austrian army, with tabloids and in the right-wing camp. Wehrschütz has Freedom Party background and can also be seen as a signal to a group with which the ORF has acceptance problems. The fact is that Wehrschütz has staked out the Balkans[118] and Ukraine as his sole territory, which no one must contest.”[119]

Wow. After this statement, some asked whether Wehrschütz would now send the Lansky law firm off to sue his own employer, the ORF. The climax of all this grotesque, however, was probably that Wehrschütz refused to give his own broadcaster an interview on the subject (!).

In mid-September 2023, new questions arose about Wehrschütz’ accreditation in Ukraine. He had posted sensitive footage showing Ukrainian air defences in action over Odesa on his Facebook account on 23 July 2023.[120] But Ukraine has rules forbidding the posting of information on social networks that could be useful to Russia.

The Viennese daily Die Presse commented: “Wehrschütz has probably violated regulations that he must be aware of.” The latter’s reaction was completely contradictory: on the one hand he spoke of an “absurd accusation,” on the other hand he admitted: “It may be that I have violated the directive in part.” [121] But even that did not (so far) lead to his expulsion by Ukraine. Wehrschütz is so self-confident that he did not even in view of the controversy remove the footage in question from his account. And the ORF Director General, Roland Weißmann, expressed confidence in mid-September 2023 that Wehrschütz would receive accreditation from the Ukrainian authorities.

12. Wehrschütz and his lawyers

Wehrschütz has already sent his lawyers – specifically the well-known Viennese law firm Lansky, Ganzger, Goeth, Frankl + Partner – against critics several times.

Of course, it is supposed to seem particularly “clever” when a former member of the right-wing Freedom Party turns to Lansky who for decades has positioned himself as decidedly “left-wing” or close to the Social Democratic Party. How does such – at first sight – astonishing cooperation actually come about?

One possible “hinge” is the “Austrian-Russian Friendship Society,” in whose boards Lansky was represented at times.[122] Wehrschütz always claimed never to have been “active” there. But on 25 September 2017, at the Palais Kaiserhaus in Vienna, he spoke the “introductory words” to a “jour fixe” organised by this “friendship society” with the pro-Russian separatist Milorad Dodik, head of the Serb Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina (who constantly threatens secession and thus its break-up as a state, repeatedly alluded to the genocide committed by Serbs in Srebrenica in 1995 and called it a “fabricated myth” etc.[123]). The topic of this wholly indispensable event, which reached intellectually lonely heights, was: “Russia’s Position in South-Eastern Europe”.[124]

Lansky’s law firm is also very interesting in its own right. He was (is?) a “trusted lawyer” of the Russian embassy in Vienna.[125] And after the start of Russia’s large-scale war of aggression against Ukraine since 24 February 2022, his firm spearheaded efforts in Austria to legally fight EU sanctions against Russian “oligarchs” – e.g. Andrei Melnichenko, who was eighth on Forbes‘ list of richest Russians for 2021, and steel billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky.

In the case of Nikolai Azarov, Yanukovych’s confidant and Ukraine’s former (2010-2014) pro-Russian prime minister, Lansky was successful – unfortunately: Azarov has repeatedly, resolutely and unreservedly defended and justified Russia’s war of extermination against Ukraine.[126] By the way, Melnichenko and Pumpyansky are on a list of oligarchs whose companies support the Russian arms industry – and thus Putin’s war of annihilation against Ukraine.[127]

And Lansky? He expressed, so to speak, compassion for his billionaire clients: “Sanctions are nuclear bombs of European law. This is the sharpest possible weapon against individuals that a legal system can possess.”[128] Such statements are, especially against the backdrop of ever new demands in Russian Kremlin-kontrolled mass media to finally use real nuclear weapons against Ukraine and/or Western states, nothing but distasteful.

Over many years, Lansky’s law firm has repeatedly provided legal services to the governments of Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. This is also significant against the background of the fact that Lansky (until the beginning of October 2023) was a member of the presidium of the Austrian branch of the international NGO “Reporters without Borders”[129]: In the World Press Freedom Index for 2023, compiled by Reporters Without Borders headquarters since 2002, these three countries are ranke das follows: Kazakhstan – 134th, Azerbaijan – 151st and Russia – 164th.[130] Of course, the question arises how Lansky’s law firm could work for the governments responsible for this situation, as he literally said:

“For about 40 years, as a human rights activist and then as a lawyer, I have dealt with the fundamental right to freedom of expression in courts and other appropriate venues. I have learned that this is unfortunately too often endangered and has to be fought for anew every day.”[131]

How true, Mr Lansky. And especially in Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

On 22 August 2023, Wehrschütz appeared on the X ressource Vatnik Soup, which is known for collecting and disseminating information about pro-Russian actors in the West. The introduction stated: “He’s best-known for supporting and spreading pro-Kremlin narratives on the Russo-Ukrainian War.”[132] Wehrschütz protested angrily on X on the same day and announced that he would contact his lawyers.[133]

Vatnik Soup mastermind Pekka Kallioniemi reacted as follows: “Allegedly, Mr. Wehrschütz has hired a group of high-profile lawyers who are known to sue everyone in Austria he deems even a slight threat to his reputation as an ‚objective‘ reporter.”[134] And indeed, Kallioniemi received a threatening letter dated 12 September 2023 from the Lansky law firm, demanding that he remove the information concerning Wehrschütz (consisting primarily of quotes from Wehrschütz himself; the scandal about his false sources for the report in “Zeit im Bild,” only a few days ago at the time, was not even covered by the Vatnik Soup). Kallioniemi, in turn, on X refused to do so. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

And what is the “morale” from all these stories behind the Wehrschütz – Lansky cooperation? It’s quite simple: otherwise very different exponents and actors (even from opposite sides of the political spectrum) have been able to agree again and again on a tendency towards a pro-Russian “platform”. And they sometimes help each other out.

No one has ever heard that Wehrschütz threatened pro-Russian persons, organisations, media etc. with his lawyers. Of course, the question arises about the reasons. Could it be that he never receives criticism from these “circles” because everyone there is in broad agreement with him and his claims in the media, why there is no “need” to involve his lawyers?

It is also very interesting in this context that the ORF 2023 remained silent for months when asked by journalists whether it actually pays Wehrschütz’ lawyers. Why is the ORF so secretive on this issue? Surely it would be in the public’s interest to know whether Wehrschütz is passing on the costs of “protecting” his vanity, which is always very quickly wounded, to the ORF – and thus to its fee payers.

13. Wehrschütz and the tabloid Kronen Zeitung

From the outside, it was never apparent that his ORF superiors had ever made any effort to stop Wehrschütz. Could this (also) have to do with the fact that the Kronen Zeitung constantly hails him?

Traditionally, this is the Austrian newspaper with the largest reach among the country’s population and, measured against this, is one of the largest daily newspapers in the world (22.2%; on Sundays 28.2%; the Kleine Zeitung, for which Wehrschütz also writes from time to time, is a distant second with 8.6%.[135]). What has been said for decades, namely that “Austria cannot be governed against the Kronen Zeitung,” is no longer true today. But it is still a significant power factor in shaping public opinion. And therefore it is important to consider that this newspaper incessantly polemicises against an EU rapprochement of Ukraine and prefers to publish “fitting” letters to the editor.

On 27 December 2018, the Kronen Zeitung made headlines with “ORF man fears for his life. Defamed as a Kremlin agent in Ukraine.”[136] It even happened that the paper hoisted Wehrschütz onto the front page of its Sunday edition and sang embarrassing eulogies to him (“Indescribably delightful how the tough war reporter suddenly mutates into an understanding grandpa”[137]; after the Russian shelling of a hotel where Wehrschütz and his staff were accommodated, “the three ‘reporter-musketeers’ […] were quickly in control of the situation again”[138], etc.). This is what journalist Christoph Matzl has put down on paper, demonstrating his alacrity to Wehrschütz time and again.

Wehrschütz Kronen Zeitung Austria
Kronen Zeitung’s feature about Christian Wehrschütz.

Of course, the Kronen Zeitung gave favorable mention to Wehrschütz’s 2022 book “My Journalist’s Life between Darth Vader and the Virgin Mary,” which undoubtedly contributed to its sales success.

The “reference to the Virgin Mary” was “a profession of faith and an indication that the Christian Christian [!] knows how important a correct understanding of history is.” (!) Wehrschütz’s family is “the spiritual well […] from which he repeatedly draws the strength for his Herculean job.”

This, in turn, was “a mission” for him. Wehrschütz, as Matzl continued mercilessly, delivered “razor-sharp front analyses.” And at the end of all this embarrassment, Matzl said: “Christian, I’m glad to have you as a friend. And sometimes, like Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, to be allowed to explore the world together a little.”[139]

14. Summary und conclusions

At the beginning of August 2022, the Viennese magazine Profil wrote of a “moral state failure” vis-à-vis Russia: Austrian politicians had whitewashed Putin’s regime “out of corruption, blackmail, persecution and murder of opposition members […] – despite knowing better. With terrible consequences for all of us. An apology would be due.”[140]

Against this background, the question is: Who exactly is Christian Wehrschütz? The answer is: not the least important of that many-headed (of course strictly informal) “cohort” of politicians, functionaries and lobbyists in interest groups, media people, “observers”, “analysts,” “public intellectuals,” and – last but not least – “[Russia] experts” (not to mention certain business people and managers not only from the oil and gas sector; these would be “worthy” of separate investigation) who have been “contextualizing,” “comparing,” “understanding,” and “analyzing” Putin’s Russia since 1999 (!).

These people have (actively) helped to shape the “cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin,” on which Austria has (too) long placed the greatest value, as well as (passively) given it expression.

Some of this group have changed their opinion – very late, but nevertheless – because of Putin’s war of annihilation against Ukraine since 24 February 2022. And others (with the Freedom Party in the lead) have remained largely to completely unimpressed with their (albeit daily failing) old “approach.”

Nor does Wehrschütz’s Ukraine reporting reveal any “break” with the past, i.e. until that fateful 24 February. In view of the above-referenced (but of course inevitably incomplete) list of Wehrschütz supporters, one is tempted to say: “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” And an apology – suggested by the Profil – for earlier misjudgements about Putin’s Russia is surely the last thing that would ever occur to him and his fans – also because these assessments are ongoing.

In countless written and oral statements by Wehrschütz one embarrassment brutally followed the next, triggering the well-known association Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses (loosely based on Boethius). People with the political orientation and simultaneously unlimited self-confidence like Wehrschütz inevitably have a strong tendency to present their view of things as having no alternative. And they are all the more convinced of this the more approval and support (not only in the media, but also in the political sphere) they receive, the more journalistic prizes they receive, the longer they are not expelled from the country from which they are supposed to report, etc.

Since Wehrschütz has been involved with Ukraine, numerous of his assertions, “analyses” and “prognoses” concerning it have been demonstrably empty of content, superficial, selective, questionable, one-sided, biased, ambiguous, misleading and/or generally counterfactual.

At least the parts of Wehrschütz’ journalistic work analyzed here evoke associations with bullshit in the sense of Harry Frankfurt (1929–2023).

According to this philosopher, bullshit is unavoidable, “whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person‘s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled – whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others – to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant.”[141]

Ukraine is being invaded by the dictatorship Russia, which denies it the right to exist, annexes its territories, deports people, destroys civilian infrastructure on a huge scale, causes environmental disasters, etc. And the biggest concern of many in Austria in general, and of Wehrschütz specifically, is whether there is really enough critical reporting on the victim of the Russian genocidal war, Ukraine.

That is a strange setting of priorities. And it was also curious that so many people in Austrian politics and journalism who have been talking and writing against the Freedom Party for many years (or even decades) in August and September 2023 suddenly – directly or indirectly – threw their weight behind Wehrschütz, who comes from precisely this party, and at the same time did not show any cognitive dissonance, the more so as Wehrschütz would fit in well with FPÖ-TV (the Freedom Party’s YouTube channel), Fox News or RT Deutsch. Incidentally, Wehrschütz has repeatedly posted approving material from RT, Sputnik, Breitbart News etc. on social networks.

Christian Wehrschütz shares materials from the Russian propaganda outlet RT, banned in the EU in March 2022

By the way, Wehrschütz himself appeared on RT Deutsch in November 2014.

Werschutz RT Deutsch Austria Russia propaganda
Christian Wehrschütz gave a talk on the topic “Ukraine – How divided is the country?” on RT Deutsch, along with Christoph Hörstel, who spoke about “German troops in Afghanistan, who really benefits?” Screenshot from

All these circumstances make it even more incomprehensible why both the ORF and Ukraine (albeit for totally different reasons) have tolerated Wehrschütz in Kyiv for many years.

Basically, Wehrschütz tended to portray the military situation in Ukraine as worse or much worse than it actually is. How else could this be explained than that he wants to make it clear that Russia will win whatever Ukraine and its allies do?

And at every opportunity – no matter how inappropriate – Wehrschütz talks about NATO’s eastward expansion, which “threatens Russia’s security interests.” It’s certainly just a coincidence, but so do Putin, Lavrov & Co. and their radical right and left supporters in Western European parties.

And is Wehrschütz’ insistence on “negotiations with Russia” supposed to be the “neutral, objective reporting” for which he constantly praises himself? This looks much more like “political consulting” – albeit on a miserable level. Following his “advice” would be openly dangerous, as it would play into Russia’s hands.

And Wehrschütz is apparently of the opinion that the objectivity in reporting, to which the ORF is obliged by law, is taken into account by allowing pro-Russian collaborators in Ukraine to have their say without comment.


  1. Putin über Leitl und die WKO. YouTube, 25 May 2014, (15 October 2023).
  2. Putin Waltzes At Austrian Foreign Minister’s Wedding. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – YouTube, 19. August 2018, (15 October 2023).
  3. Jana Puglierin and Pawel Zerka, Keeping America close, Russia down, and China far away: How Europeans navigate a competitive world. European Council on Foreign Relations, 7 June 2023, (1 July 2023).
  4. Conrad Seidl, Nur 42 Prozent der Österreicher befürworten, dass die Ukraine weiterkämpft. Der Standard, 28 August 2023,
  5. Korruption in der Ukraine [report by Christian Wehrschütz]. 15 August 2023, 19.30, (18 August 2023).
  6. Ukrainian; in Russian: Odesa.
  7. СБУ затримала в Одесі агента фсб, який збирав розвіддані про нові підрозділи Сил оборони. Служба безпеки України, YouTube, 23 March 2023, (17 August 2023).
  8. Quoted from: Russische Propaganda? Wirbel um ORF-Beitrag. Puls 24 Chronik, 17 August 2023, (18 August 2023).
  9. Christian Wehrschütz, Wikipedia, (15 September 2023).
  10. Quoted from: Anja Melzer, ORF-Korrespondent Wehrschütz beschönigt seine Aula-Vergangenheit. ZackZack, 31 May 2022, (3 July 2022).
  11. Die Aula. Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes. (2 August 2023).
  12. Hans-Henning Scharsach, Strache. Im braunen Sumpf. Wien 2012, p. 123.
  13. Herwig Nachtmann, Prozess nach NS-Verbotsgesetz. Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes, (15 September 2023).
  14. Christian Wehrschütz, Einigelung der Hauptstadt. Im Kriegsgebiet. Tagebücher aus der Ukraine. Kleine Zeitung Interaktiv, 20 April 2022, (6 November 2022).
  15. Christian Wehrschütz, ORF-Analyse aus der Ukraine, 9 September 2022, ORFTVTHEK,,Analyse-aus-der-Ukraine/15231830 (11 September 2022).
  16. Quoted from: Michael Marcus Thurner, Perry Rhodan-Fans: Interview mit Christian Wehrschütz – Teil 2. Journalist des Jahres 2014 und Perry Rhodan-Leser. Perry Rhodan, 3 November 2015, (18 September 2022).
  17. Christian F. Wehrschütz, Brennpunkt Ukraine. Gespräche über ein gespaltenes Land. Wien / Graz / Klagenfurt 2014, p. 136.
  18. Ibid., p. 148.
  19. Extremistische Opposition stürmt Waffenlager. ORF, 8 April 2022, (25 April 2022).
  20. Christian Wehrschütz, Mein Journalistenleben zwischen Darth Vader und Jungfrau Maria. Graz 2022., p. 44.
  21. Wehrschütz from the Crimean capital Simferopol on ORF Radio, channel Ö1, 18 March 2014.
  22. “Increasing Restrictions on Media Freedom”: How an Austrian Journalist Was Branded as an “Enemy of Ukraine” [translation by]. Stalkerzone, 2 January 2019, (5 July 2022).
  23. Ida Metzger, Wehrschütz: “Oft passieren doch noch Wunder” [interview]. Kurier, 14 February 2015, (6 Mai 2022).
  24. Cf. Георгий Касьянов, Украина и соседи: Историческая политика 1987–2018. Москва 2019, pp. 543-544, 594.
  25. Wehrschütz, Mein Journalistenleben, op. cit., p. 58.
  26. Ibid., p. 60.
  27. Ibid., p. 61.
  28. Wehrschütz, Brennpunkt Ukraine, op. cit., p. 7.
  29. Quoted from: Metzger, Wehrschütz [interview], op. cit.
  30. Wehrschütz, Brennpunkt Ukraine, op. cit., pp. 117-118, 143.
  31. RBI Summer Talk im Zeichen EU- und Russlandbeziehungen. Raiffeisen Bank International, 8 June 2016,—rbi-summer-talk-im-zeichen-der-eu–und-russlandbezi.html (28 August 2022).
  32. Иван Благой, На Украине объявлен агентом Кремля австрийский репортер, не замеченный в симпатиях к России. Pervii kanal, 28 December 2018, (30 July 2023).
  33. Вершютц Кристиан / Wehrschütz Christian / Vershyutts Kristian. Mirotvorets, (22 July 2022).
  34. Quoted from: ORF-Korrespondent Wehrschütz in der Ukraine bedroht. Der Standard, 27 December 2018, (5 July 2022).
  35. Wehrschütz, Mein Journalistenleben, op. cit., p. 32.
  36. Quoted from: Monika König-Krisper: Christian Wehrschütz: „Ich habe keine Angst“. Kronen Zeitung, 7 October 2022, (4 June 2023).
  37. A Viennese daily newspaper called Busina a “prominent pro-Russian activist” and “publicist” in an article that also mentioned Wehrschütz, cf. “Todesliste”: Umstrittene ukrainische Internetseite listet Gudenus. Kurier, 5. November 2022, (15 October 2023).
  38. Юрий Бершидский, Фейк Первого канала: австрийский журналист, рассказавший правду о Крыме, опасается за свою жизнь. The Insider, 27 December 2018, (18 October 2022).
  39. Christian Wehrschütz liest in der Buchhandlung Morawa Wollzeile. Edition Kneiper, (29 May 2023).
  40. Christian Wehrschütz, Die Zukunft der Ukraine: Zwischen Neutralität & NATO. Kronen Zeitung / Sonntagsmagazin, 24 April 2022, pp. 6-7, here p. 6.
  41. Rüdiger von Fritsch: Zeitenwende. Putins Krieg und die Folgen. Berlin 2022, p. 60.
  42. Has Putin’s war failed and what does Russia want? BBC, 19 February 2023, (20 February 2023).
  43. Россия не рассматривает возможность присоединения Крыма, заявил Путин. RIA Novosti, 4 March 2014, (5 February 2023).
  44. Обращение Президента Российской Федерации. Prezident Rossii, 18 March 2014, (5 February 2023).
  45. Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris, France. NATO, 27 May 1997, (28 September 2023).
  46. Quoted from: Johanna Hager and Martin Gebhart, “Bin bereit für das Kanzleramt”. Kurier, 18 September 2022, p. 8.
  47. Quoted from: „Kriegstreiberei“: Schlagabtausch zwischen Kickl und Nehammer. Die Presse, 13 December 2022, (14 December 2022).
  48. Quoted from: Путин назвал время подлета ракет НАТО к Москве при размещении на Украине. RBK, 21 December 2021, (28 September 2023).
  49. Russia deploys nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad. BBC News, 9 October 2016, (28 September 2023).
  50. Wehrschütz, for example, in the TV discussion IM ZENTRUM: Putins Spiel mit dem Feuer – Droht ein Krieg in Europa? (23 January 2022). ORF Fan / YouTube, (28 Septembe 2023).
  51. Quoted from: Christian Wehrschütz beehrte den SK Sturm. SK Sturm, 22 January 2023, (30 May 2023).
  52. Christian Wehrschütz (ORF) zum Ukraine-Krieg. ORF, 28 June 2022, (28 June 2022).
  53. Mike Eckel, Amid Putin’s Saber-Rattling, What Exactly Is A Tactical Nuclear Weapon? RFE/RL, 13 October 2022, (13 October 2023).
  54. Gordon Corera, Ukraine war: Could Russia use tactical nuclear weapons? BBC News, 26 April 2022, (28 June 2022).
  55. Wehrschütz, Die Zukunft der Ukraine, op. cit., p. 6.
  56. Robert S. Norris, The Soviet Nuclear Archipelago. Arms Control Today, 22 (1), 1992, pp. 24-31.
  57. Quoted from: Benedikt Faast, Wehrschütz bleibt doch in Kiew. “Schwerste Entscheidung”. ZackZack, 1 March 2022, (16 April 2022).
  58. Fellner! LIVE: Christian Wehrschütz im Interview. YouTube, 2 June 2022, (7 September 2022).
  59. Christian Wehrschütz, Betrifft: Ukraine. Kronen Zeitung – Krone-Bunt, 22 January 2023, pp. 10-11, hier p. 10.
  60. Tyson Wetzel, Ukraine air war examined: A glimpse at the future of air warfare. Atlantic Council, 30 August 2022, (9 September 2022).
  61. Quoted from: ORF Radio, Ö1 Mittagsjournal, 10 September 2022, (10 September 2022).
  62. Quoted from: Clemens Neuhold, “Am Drücker ist weiterhin die Ukraine” [interview with Berthold Sandtner]. Profil, no. 42, 2022, pp. 44-45, here p. 44.
  63. Mark F. Cancian and Tom Karako, Patriot to Ukraine: What Does It Mean? Center for Strategic and International Studies, 16 December 2022, (20 May 2023).
  64. Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart and Mike Stone, Can Ukraine use Patriot defense systems to knock out Russian hypersonic missiles? Reuters, 17 May 2023, (20 May 2023).
  65. Christian Wehrschütz, Ukraine: schwerer Beschuss mit westlicher Technik weitgehend abgewehrt. ORF Radio, Ö1 Mittagsjournal, 16 May 2023, (20 May 2023).
  66. Night attack on Ukraine cost Russia at least US$120 million. Ukrainska pravda, 16 May 2023, (20 May 2023).
  67. Pete Shmigel, Russia’s Month of Missile Madness: 90% of Projectiles Failed, $1.7 Billion Spent. Kyiv Post, 31 May 2023, (2 June 2023).
  68. ORF Radio, Ö1 Mittagsjournal, 15 April 2022.
  69. Zitiert nach: ORF-Star in der Ukraine – die knallharte Kriegs-Analyse. Heute, 24 August 2022, (25 August 2022).
  70. Quoted from: Conny Bischofberger, Wie abgebrüht sind Sie schon, Herr Wehrschütz? [Interview with Wehrschütz]. Kronen Zeitung, 6 March 2022, (8 September 2022).
  71. Kriegsreporter Wehrschütz: “Die Solidarität mit der Ukraine wird zurückgehen”. Club 3, 27 May 2022, YouTube, (30 May 2022); “Die Solidarität mit der Ukraine wird zurückgehen”. Profil, no. 22, 2022, p. 53; cf. Fellner! LIVE: Christian Wehrschütz, op. cit, from minute 23:05.
  72. Ibid.
  73. Gastbeitrag von Franziska Davies und Anna Veronika Wendland. Der Volksverpetzer, 15 September 2023, (17 September 2023).
  74. Fellner! LIVE: Christian Wehrschütz, op. cit.; Christian Wehrschütz, Betrifft: Ukraine, op. cit., p. 11.
  75. Полный текст обращения Владимира Путина 30 сентября 2022: Стенограмма выступления

    Опубликован полный текст обращения Владимира Путина 30 сентября 2022 года. Komsomol’skaja pravda, 30 September 2022, (3 October 2022).

  76. Quoted from: ORF-Star sagt baldiges Ende des Ukraine-Kriegs voraus. Heute, 28 May 2022, (5 September 2022).
  77. Quoted from: Helen Livingstone, Russia accuses Nato of ‘proxy war’ in Ukraine as US hosts crucial defence summit. The Guardian, 26 April 2022, (24 September 2023); Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s briefing on a wide range of international issues, including humanitarian aspects in the context of developments in Ukraine. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 30 June 2023, (24 September 2023).
  78. ЗОМБОЯЩИК. Матушка, они это проглотили! Популярная политика, 20 July 2023, (20 July 2023), from minute 3:00 on.
  79. Quoted from: Selenskyj: “Wir alle spüren, wie unser Sieg naht”. ORF, 13 November 2022, (16 November 2022).
  80. Quoted from: Ella Joyner, EU lawmakers name Russia a ‘state sponsor’ of terrorism. Deutsche Welle, 23 November 2023, (22 March 2023).
  81. ЗАКОН УКРАЇНИ. Про забезпечення прав і свобод громадян та правовий режим на тимчасово окупованій території України, 15.04.2022, Редакція від 03.12.2022, підстава – 2764-IX, (29 December 2022).
  82. Cf. Tim Bouverie, Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War. London 2019.
  83. Meret Baumann, Österreich wagt den Bruch mit Putin nicht – so unterstützt es dessen Krieg. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23 August 2023, (24 August 2023).
  84. Quoted from: Twitter-Wirbel um ORF-Wehrschütz. OE24, 4 April 2022, (4 April 2022).
  85. Quoted from: Kickl beim ORF-Sommergespräch: “Russland-Sanktionen bedrohen unseren Wohlstand!” FPÖ, 22 August 2022, (14 October 2022); Kickl: Man müsse versuchen, auch Russland zu verstehen. Puls 24, 22 August 2023, (18 September 2023).
  86. Quoted from: Twitter-Wirbel um ORF-Wehrschütz, op. cit.
  87. Ibid.
  88. Quoted from: Christian Wehrschütz: “Hut, wenn es windig ist. Helm, wenn es wirklich gefährlich ist” [interview]. Journalist:in, 24 May 2022, (29 June 2023).
  89. Wehrschütz, Mein Journalistenleben, op. cit., p. 89.
  90. ORF Radio, Ö1, Morgenjournal, 15 September 2022, (16 September 2022), from 7:05.
  91. Quoted from: ORF-Bericht zu Gräber-Fund. ZIB 2, 16 September 2022, ORFTVTHEK, (19 September 2022).
  92. F. Chr Wehrschuetz, Twitter, 9 April 2022, (9 April 2022).
  93. Christian Wehrschütz: Hunderte Gräber. Kleine Zeitung, 16 September 2022, (1 März 2023).
  94. Fabian Sommavilla, Timothy Snyder: “Natürlich können wir Putin demütigen” [interview]. Der Standard, 14 July 2023, (17 July 2023).
  95. Cf. Jan Dirk Herbermann, UN-Ermittler zu Ukrainekrieg: “Kopfschüsse, stumpfe Traumata, aufgeschlitzte Kehlen” [interview with Erik Møse]. Der Standard, 14 März 2023, (14 März.2023); Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Human Rights Council, Fifty-second session, 27 February–31 March 2023, Advance Unedited Version Distr.: General, 15 March 2023, (16 March 2023).
  96. Cf. Sergej Sumlenny, How Russian TV Promotes Genocide [Interview mit Julia Davis]. European Resilience Initiative Center, 30 August 2023, (30 August 2023);

    Kristina Hook, The Russian Federation’s Escalating Commission of Genocide in Ukraine: A Legal Analysis. July 2023, (4 August 2023); Patrick Heinemann, Neue Studie sieht Belege für russischen Völkermord in der Ukraine. Legal Tribute Online (LTO), 8 August 2023, (2 October 2023).

  97. Quoted from: Lukas Kalteis, Christian Wehrschütz über das Unfassbare vom Krieg in der Ukraine. NÖN, 14 April 2023, (29 July 2023).
  98. This is the spelling that this medium itself uses for its name.
  99. Richard Schmitt, Wilde Attacken gegen den ORF wegen angeblicher “pro-russischer Propaganda”. Exxpress, 17 August 2023, (20 August 2023).
  100. Für Putins Botschafter “nicht mehr neutral”: Wien als Verhandlungsort ausgeschieden [interview with Dmitry Liubinskii]. Exxpress, 14 February 2023, (15 October 2023).
  101. Quoted from: ORF bestätigt falsche Videos in Wehrschütz-Beitrag in der “Zeit im Bild”. Der Standard, 17 August 2023, (17 August 2023).
  102. Quoted from: ORF bestätigt falsche Videos in Wehrschütz-Beitrag in der “Zeit im Bild”. Der Standard, 17 August 2023, (17 August 2023).
  103. Florian Bayer: Propagandavideos in ZiB1: Bis dato keine Aufklärung. ZackZack, 18 August 2023, (18 August 2023).
  104. Cf. ibid.
  105. F. Chr Wehrschuetz, X, 17 August 2023, (18 August 2023).
  106. Bayer, Propagandavideos in ZiB1, op. cit.
  107. Edda Graf, “Ich lasse mich nicht abbringen” [interview with Wehrschütz]. Kronen Zeitung – Bunt, 27 August 2023, pp. 6-7.
  108. Daniel Kosak, X, 20 August 2023, (23 August 2023).
  109. Armin Arbeiter, Hut ab vor Christian Wehrschütz! Kurier, 20 August 2023, (23 August 2023).
  110. Michael Bauer, X, 22 August 2023, (23 August 2023).
  111. Wie gefährlich ist die Lage im AKW Saporosche. ORF Radio, Ö1 Mittagsjournal, from 12:32, (20 August 2023).
  112. Quoted from: Christoph Matzl, Wehrschütz: “Habe keine prorussische Haltung”. Kronen Zeitung, 18 August 2023, (20 August 2023).
  113. Florian Klenk, X, 9 September 2023, (19 September 2023).
  114. Florian Klenk, Pressefreiheit für Wehrschütz. Der Falter, 12 September 2023, (19 September 2023).
  115. European Convention on Human Rights. (3 October 2023), p. 13.
  116. Klenk, Pressefreiheit, op. cit.
  117. Barbara Toth, Blattkritik. Falter, 5 September 2023, (5 October 2023).
  118. Wehrschütz works, parallel to Ukraine, also in the Western Balkans and is thus the only ORF foreign correspondent who heads offices in different cities (Kyiv and Belgrade).
  119. Krieg, Lügen und Videos. ORF Radio, Ö1 [1 September 2023 Programme], (1 September 2023).
  120. Christian Ferdinand Wehrschütz, Facebook, 20230723 Ukraine Odesa unter massivem Beschuss Wehrsch Mod In der Ukraine ist die Hafenstadt Odesa in der Nacht neuerlich massiv von Russland beschossen worden. […], 23 July 2023, (3 October 2023).
  121. Quoted from: Rosa Schmidt-Vierthaler, Neue Vorwürfe gegen ORF-Korrespondent Christian Wehrschütz. Die Presse, 14 September 2023, (14 September 2023).
  122. Stefan Melichar and Michael Nikbakhsh, Liebesgrüße nach Moskau. Profil, no. 11, 2022, pp. 32-36, here p. 34.
  123. Quoted from: Zamira Rahim, Srebrenica massacre is ‘fabricated myth’, Bosnian Serb leader says. Independent, 14 April 2019, (23 August 2023).
  124. Österreichisch-Russische Freundschaftsgesellschaft – ORFG. Facebook, 29 August 2017, (8 April 2022).
  125. Andreas Knapp and Josef Redl, Klub Ost: Das heikle Geschäft mit russischen Klienten in Wien. Profil, 27 August 2012, (27 April 2022).
  126. Cf. Юрий Нечаев, Экс-премьер Украины Азаров: НАТО хотела развязать ядерный конфликт с РФ в 2022 году. Rossiiskaja gazeta, 4 March 2023, (3 August 2023).
  127. Виталий Солдатских etc., Путеводитель по российским олигархам военного времени. Proekt, 21 August 2023, (4 August 2023).
  128. Quoted from: Marina Delcheva and Anna Thalhammer, Österreichisch-russische Freundschaft: Geld ist dicker als Sanktionen. Profil, 31 July 2023, (3 August 2023).
  129. Reporter-ohne-Grenzen-Vorstand Lansky wegen Causa Wehrschütz zurückgetreten. Der Standard, 3 October 2023, (4 October 2023).
  130. World Press Freedom Index. (25 September 2023).
  131. Präsidium. Reporter ohne Grenzen, (25 September 2023).
  132. Pekka Kallioniemi, X, 22 August 2023, (15 October 2023).
  133. Christian Wehrschütz, X, 22 August 2023, (22 August 2023).
  134. Pekka Kallioniemi, X, 22 August 2023, (15 October 2023).
  135. Krone Gesamtausgabe.,von%2057%2C1%20%25%20entspricht (30 May 2023).
  136. Wehrschütz, Mein Journalistenleben, op. cit., p. 22.
  137. Christoph Matzl, “Der Tod kann dich überall ereilen”. Kronen Zeitung – Krone Bunt, 29 May 2022, pp. 6-11, here p. 9.
  138. Christoph Matzl, “Muss dem Himmel danken”. Kronen Zeitung, 30 October 2022, p. 6.
  139. Christoph Matzl, Sein Leben zwischen Darth Vader und Jungfrau Maria. Kronen Zeitung – Krone Bunt, 2 October 2022, pp. 8-9.
  140. Christa Zöchling, Moralisches Staatsversagen. Profil, no. 32, 2022, pp. 20-25.
  141. Harry G. Frankfurt > Quotes. Goodreads, (15 October 2023).
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