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War in Ukraine | “There should be no illusions” about Putin, says Austrian Chancellor

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(Moscow) Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, the first European leader to be received by Vladimir Putin since the start of the intervention in Ukraine, said on Monday he was “pessimistic” about the Russian president’s “logic of war”.

“If you ask me now whether I’m optimistic or pessimistic, then I’m rather pessimistic,” Nehammer told reporters after the meeting.

“We should have no illusions. President Putin has massively entered into a logic of war and he is acting accordingly” in the hope of recording “a rapid military success”, he added.

“There is little interest on the Russian side for a direct meeting” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Chancellor.

Vladimir Putin nevertheless “reiterated his confidence” in the talks in Turkey. The last session was held on March 29 in Istanbul.

In addition, Karl Nehammer defended his “one-to-one” meeting in Russia, stressing “the importance of having personal contact to confront the president with the realities of the war and directly convey the point of the Europeans”.


PHOTO ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Karl Nehammer meets the press after his interview with Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, he had earlier described the more than hour-long discussion with Mr. Putin as “frank, open and difficult”.

“I spoke about the serious war crimes in Boutcha and other places, saying that all those responsible must be brought to justice,” said the Austrian Chancellor.

“Humanitarian Corridors”

Boutcha is a locality near Kyiv that has become a symbol of atrocities, where Karl Nehammer went this weekend like other Western officials. Moscow has firmly rejected any involvement.

I made clear to the Russian President the urgency of setting up humanitarian corridors to transport water and food and evacuate women, children and the wounded from besieged cities.

Karl Nehammer, Austrian Chancellor

The meeting took place in the residence of Russian President Novo-Ogaryovo, near Moscow.

No image has filtered from the meeting which, according to the Austrian press, did not result in a handshake. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, this closed-door format was chosen at the initiative of the Austrian side.

Karl Nehammer says in particular that he “informed” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “of the content of the exchange”.

The Austrian conservative chancellor went to Moscow on his own initiative after visiting Ukraine. He “has no European mandate”, his Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said earlier on Monday.

His move was decided after talks in Kyiv on Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discussions with Mr. Scholz, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as the heads of European institutions Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

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