Putin holds 'closed door' Ukraine talks with EU leader
Closed-doors talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer took place, outside Moscow, on Monday. No press conference or joint statements followed the meeting at Putin’s official residence, and no photo or video materials were published.
The negotiations were not a “friendly visit” but were rather “very direct, open and hard,” Nehammer told Austrian media after the talks. He signaled that the conversation revolved around the humanitarian aspect of the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.
“This is not a friendly visit. I’ve just come from Ukraine and saw with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression,” Nehammer stated, adding that he had raised alleged “war crimes” blamed on Russian troops during the meeting. The chancellor also revealed that he told Putin that anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the EU would remain in place and could even be reinforced as long as the conflict goes on.
“The EU is more united than ever on this issue,” Nehammer stated.
The Austrian leader became the first EU leader to visit Russia after the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev broke out in late February. The chancellor’s visit has been coordinated with the EU leadership, as well as Nehammer’s German counterpart Olaf Scholz.
On Saturday, Nehammer visited Kiev, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as other senior officials. During the visit, the chancellor pledged his support to the Kiev authorities, confirming that sanctions would remain in place “until the war stops.”
Moscow launched a large-scale offensive against neighboring Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO alliance. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.