Nehammer became the first EU head of government to hold talks with Putin after the start of the Russian armed invasion of Ukraine.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was not optimistic about the imminent cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.
Nehammer made this pessimistic assessment after his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the residence of the head of the Russian state near Moscow in Novo-Ogarev.
The Chancellor became the first head of government of a European Union member state to hold talks with the Russian leader after the start of the Russian armed invasion of Ukraine.
“On the whole, I don’t have an optimistic impression that I can share with you from this conversation with President Putin,” Nehammer said at a briefing for Austrian journalists following the talks.
“The President of the Russian Federation has a completely different assessment than we have, than the heads of EU governments. It was important for me, looking into his eyes, to point out the horrors of the war, the suffering that I saw myself, the war crimes in Bucha and other villages in Ukraine,” Nehammer said via video link from Moscow.
Nehammer said that the Russian leader intends to “solve” the issue of Donbass, despite the sanctions.
“He clearly confirmed that sanctions are tough for the Russian Federation, but the situation in the Donbass for him should be solved, so to speak, even with sanctions, even if they are tangible,” Nehammer said.
According to Nehammer, he made it clear to Putin that “the war in Ukraine should end as soon as possible,” and sanctions against Russia will be tightened “while people are dying in Ukraine.”
The Chancellor described the meeting as “very tough,” “very open” and “very direct”.
“It was not a friendly visit,” he stressed, adding that for him the visit to Moscow was a “duty.”
The Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung writes that during the meeting, at the request of Nehammer, there were no handshakes or joint photos – in order to “avoid their use by Russia for propaganda purposes.”
But the Austrian Chancellor at the same time pointed out the importance of the opportunity “to have personal contact, to personally tell the President of Russia about the reality of the war that is happening now, and how it appears to the European Union.”
“We need to continue on this path,” Nehammer added.
Nehammer said that he gave Putin information about the desire of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to hold personal talks with him.
On Saturday, before the visit to Moscow, the Chancellor held talks in Kyiv with Zelenskiy.
“I also pointed out to him that President Zelenskiy wants direct contact with him in order to negotiate. But there was no significant reaction to this,” Nehammer said.
However, the Chancellor expressed support for the negotiation process between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Istanbul in order to end hostilities in Ukraine.
“It was important to understand that the Russian president still has confidence in the negotiations in Istanbul. I believe that this process should be supported further,” Nehammer said.
“This is the only format in which progress can be made in the peace talks, but they have stalled,” the Austrian Chancellor stated.
According to him, the Chancellor told Putin about the need for an international investigation of war crimes.
“There was a tough confrontation between us on this topic, because the president attributes a biased attitude to the international community,” Nehammer argued.
According to a statement issued by the Chancellor’s office immediately after the meeting with Putin, Nehammer wanted to achieve three major humanitarian goals in Moscow: an immediate cessation of hostilities, the creation of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of wounded and vulnerable groups of the population and humanitarian access by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Chancellor did not give estimates on progress in these areas.
Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said even before the talks began that there would be no statements from the Russian side following the results of this meeting.