Austrian chancellor to meet Putin in Moscow

Chancellor Karl Nehammer will be the first European leader to meet Vladimir Putin since the invasion began.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, the first European leader to meet him since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the leader announced on Twitter.

“We are militarily neutral, but [have] a clear position on the Russian war of aggression against the Ukraine. He has to stop! It needs humanitarian corridors, a ceasefire & full investigation of war crimes,” he said.

Nehammer said he had briefed other European partners regarding his visit to Moscow, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed to RIA news agency that Putin would be holding talks with Nehammer on Monday.

The planned meeting with the Russian leader follows a trip by Nehammer to Ukraine on Saturday, during which the Austrian chancellor met the Ukrainian president.

Putin has been largely shunned by Western leaders since the start of the conflict, though he met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Kremlin in early March.

Neutral Austria has been providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine as well as helmets and body armour for civilians rather than weapons.

Nehammer, a conservative, has been visibly moved by telephone conversations with Zelenskyy and says he wants to show support.

Austria is a member of the European Union, but has not joined NATO.

Vienna has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and this week expelled four Russian diplomats.

Earlier this week, the EU approved an embargo on Russian coal – the first time the bloc has targeted the energy sector, on which it is heavily dependent – and the closing of European ports to Russian vessels.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees said the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since the war started was now some 4.5 million. About 2.6 million of those fled, at least initially, to Poland, and more than 686,000 to Romania, the UN said.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council – with 93 votes in favour and 24 against, with 58 member states abstaining from the process.

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