The head of the Austrian government, the conservative Karl Nehammer, will be this Monday the first EU leader to meet in person with Russian President Vladimir Putin since he launched the invasion of Ukraine, in a meeting in Moscow with whom he wants, he said, contribute to peace but also point out Russian war crimes.
Nehammer indicated this Sunday to the media that the initiative has come from him and that he has informed the authorities of the European Union (EU) and the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, whom he visited this Saturday in kyiv. The chancellor pointed out that he is determined to “do everything in his power to guarantee that steps are taken towards peace,” reports the APA agency.
Although he admitted that the chances of success are slim, he stressed that his position is not one of “doing nothing” but that he wants to act as a “bridge builder”.
The head of the Austrian government pointed out that he will not be “morally neutral” and that during the meeting with the Russian president he will address the “war crimes” of which Russia is accused in Ukraine.
“Everything that can be done must be done to help the people in Ukraine to stop the war,” Nehammer justified his meeting with Putin, the first of a European Union leader since the invasion began on February 24. Still, he called the trip to Moscow a “risky mission.”
Nehammer explained that he planned this visit during his trip to Ukraine this weekend to, as he himself said, show his support for Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia for six weeks.
The conservative politician told the media in Vienna that he has discussed his trip to Moscow with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the Council, Charles Michel, and also with the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.
According to statements by the Austrian Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, collected by the Russian agency Tass, the talks with the Russian president will be behind closed doors. The visit involves a “face-to-face meeting in private and without the presence of the media.”
Upon arrival for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg, Schallenberg has told Nehammer he aims to tell the Russian president the truth about the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports. “It is different to be face to face and tell him what the reality is: that this president has de facto lost the war morally. It should be in his own interest for someone to tell him the truth. I think it is important and we owe it to ourselves if we want to save human lives.”
Austria is a member of the European Union but not of NATO. It has claimed its status as a neutral country so as not to send weapons in support of Ukraine, but it has roundly condemned Russia’s attack, denounced the war crimes committed by its troops and participated in the sanctions imposed so far by the EU.
It has also expelled four Russian diplomats, although it was one of the last EU countries to join that measure, which has accelerated in recent days after images of the massacre of civilians attributed to Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
Austriaa is one of the EU countries that most strongly opposes sanctions that target Russian gas, on which its economy is highly dependent.