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Austria’s Chancellor Nehammer meets Putin in Moscow

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer wants to meet Vladimir Putin in person on Monday.

This was announced by the Federal Chancellery in Vienna. It would be the first trip by a Western head of government to Russia since the beginning of the Ukraine war.

For the first time since the start of the Ukraine war, a Western head of government is traveling to Moscow. The Federal Chancellery in Vienna announced on Sunday that Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer will travel to Moscow on Monday to meet Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin in person. The “Bild” newspaper had previously reported on the trip. In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the meeting.

With his trip, Nehammer wanted to promote dialogue between the warring parties, the Chancellor’s Office explained. Nehammer informed the German federal government, the EU leaders and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about his project in advance. In doing so, Austria contradicted other statements about irritation in Ukraine.

Government spokesman Daniel Kosak said the trip had three goals: The war had to stop. That sounds banal, but it is the most important thing. The Ukrainian government is also expecting a “big battle” in the east of the country in the coming days. For this purpose, agreements for humanitarian corridors would have to be made. Thirdly, Nehammer wants to speak to Putin about the war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine. These would have to be clarified by an independent international body.

Nehammer had already traveled to Kyiv on Saturday for talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyj and Mayor Vitali Klitschko and then visited the Bucha suburb, where war crimes were committed.

Austria does not belong to NATO, but supports Ukraine with helmets and protective equipment, as well as rescue and fire engines, among other things. Nehammer said that the war initiated by Russia was completely unacceptable to Austria. “We are militarily neutral, but not when it comes to naming crimes and when it comes to going where injustice is actually happening.”

After the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, the EU, NATO and other Western countries cut many ties to Moscow. French President Emmanuel Macron, like Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), called Putin several times, but without any results. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also returned empty-handed from a talk in the Kremlin in early March. Turkey continues to try to mediate between Ukrainian and Russian representatives.

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