Austria Chancellor Nehammer visits Putin in Moscow – are they allies?

Boris Johnson 'skeptical' of nations 'negotiating' with Putin

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Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday in an attempt to hopefully encourage dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. The two countries have a longstanding history of cooperation – but as the stakes in Ukraine are raised further, it remains to be seen whether Austria could be capable of making a breakthrough with the Kremlin.

Mr Nehammer said on Twitter on Sunday: “I’m going to meet Vladimir #Putin in Moscow tomorrow.

“We are militarily neutral, but (have) a clear position on the Russian war of aggression against #Ukraine.

“It must stop! It needs humanitarian corridors, ceasefire & full investigation of war crimes.”

Austrian officials have said Mr Nehammer’s trip to Moscow is part of efforts to promote a “dialogue” between Russia and Ukraine and claimed he would specifically raise the issue of war crimes with President Putin.

Horrific images and videos of slain Ukrainians have emerged in northern areas of the country where Russian troops have recently withdrawn.

The visit to Moscow comes after Mr Nehammer met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday.

It was the first time they have met since the war broke out in Ukraine on February 24.

The news has emerged as reports of a fresh Kremlin offensive against Ukraine’s eastern regions are expected to begin imminently.

What is the relationship between Russia and Austria?

Russia and Austria have maintained positive relations since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Austria has long been sympathetic to the Kremlin’s influence in Europe – something other European countries have viewed with a cautious eye.

In 2017, during the first coalition government of former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, members of the country’s far-right Freedom Party — which had a close relationship with the Kremlin — were given sensitive ministerial portfolios, leading to many western intelligence agencies suspending information sharing with Vienna.

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Since that Government collapsed in 2019, Austria has attempted to rectify its reputation with other European nations, albeit with mixed success.

Mr Nehammer’s visit to President Zelensky last week was considered a step forward for Austria in the eyes of Europe, and a revision of its ties with Moscow.

Mr Zelensky said of the meeting: “It’s a very important signal for us.

“A signal to the whole of Europe that Austria supports Ukraine, the Ukrainian people in its resistance to the aggression of the Russian Federation.”

But like many other European countries, Austria is also extremely dependent on Russia economically.

Some 80 percent of its gas is supplied by Russia and its banking sector is deeply entwined with Russian financial and commercial institutions.

But most recently, Austria has supported EU sanctions against Russia but has maintained is military neutrality.

In response, President Putin placed Austria on a list of “enemy countries”.

Despite this, Austria has maintained its position of mediator between European and Russian strategic interests.

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