Russian President Vladimir Putin. AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia is not trying to split the European Union (EU).

His remarks come ahead of a visit to Austria, his first trip to a Western European country in nearly a year.

He told Austria’s ORF station he wanted a “united and prosperous” EU, calling the bloc Russia’s most important commercial and economic partner.

He also played down reported links between his United Russia party and Austria’s far-right Freedom Party.

Putin will meet Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday, as well as business leaders.

“The more problems at the heart of the EU, the more risks and problems there are for us.

“We need to build co-operation with the EU. We don’t have a goal of dividing anything or anyone in the EU,” he said.

EU sanctions, levied against Russia because of its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, will likely form part of discussions.