Despite a recent appeal from the Polish President Andrzej Duda for restraint in contact with Russian diplomats, the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Russia on Monday. He said that the goal of talks with Vladimir Putin was to end the fratricidal war in Ukraine.
There has been much criticism of Nehammer’s visit, as some consider it as nothing but a PR stunt. Earlier the Austrian chancellor had the opportunity to witness the atrocities committed by Russian forces in Bucha.
Austria’s Chancellor said that he held “direct, open and tough” talks with Putin in Moscow on Monday. Nehammer is the first European Union leader to meet the Russian dictator since he ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24.
In a statement after the meeting, Nehammer said that his most important message to Putin was that the war in Ukraine must end because “in a war, there are only losers on both sides”.
A spokesman for Nehammer said on Monday afternoon that the meeting took place at Putin’s official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. According to the media, it lasted for about 90 minutes.
Conservative Nehammer’s coalition partner, the left-wing Greens, criticised his visit to Russia.
“I cannot condone a visit to Putin. This has nothing to do with diplomacy. This is also not an agreed roadmap for negotiations. Putin will use this for his propaganda,” the Greens’ foreign affairs spokesperson Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic said on Twitter.
While Austria generally maintains closer ties to Moscow than much of the European Union, they have not seen eye-to-eye recently. Nehammer has expressed solidarity with Ukraine over the Russian invasion and denounced apparent Russian war crimes there, while his government has joined other EU countries in expelling Russian diplomats, albeit only a fraction of the large Russian diplomatic presence there.
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