Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer described his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “very direct, frank and tough”. However, he has “no optimistic impression”.
The Russian army is preparing an offensive in eastern Ukraine, Nehammer said in Moscow. “This battle will be fought with vehemence.” Therefore, civilians from the contested areas would have to be brought to safety via humanitarian corridors.
Nehammer demands clarification of the war crimes
The chancellor, who was previously in Ukraine, also called for an investigation into the war crimes. The United Nations could help, he said after his visit to Kyiv and the Bucha suburb, where hundreds of civilian bodies had been found. There are examples, such as from the Yugoslav wars, that such crimes could be solved. Those responsible should be held accountable.
According to Nehammer, Putin has shown distrust in the independent prosecution of these crimes. However, Austria had offered to work for international criminal justice to deal with the matter.
Meeting defended against criticism
Nehammer was the first head of government of an EU country to speak personally with Putin more than six weeks ago since the outbreak of war. Austria’s chancellor also defended his meeting with Putin against criticism. He wanted to address the horrors of war directly in the power center of the Russian Federation. “It takes personal confrontation,” he emphasized. The meeting with Putin had been agreed with the leaders of the EU and with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.