France sends police to kyiv to investigate war crimes

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Moscow on Monday, marking the first visit by a Western leader to President Vladimir Putin since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The trip follows Mr. Nehammer’s visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday. He is due to meet Mr. Putin at the Kremlin around 4 p.m. local time.

Mr Nehammer has faced criticism at home for his trip to Moscow, just a week after the first reports emerged of atrocities allegedly committed by Russian troops against civilians during their occupation of the Kyiv region .

Politicians from the chancellor’s own coalition have warned the Russian president could use the visit for propaganda purposes. Mr Nehammer said the trip was a risky mission but diplomacy was now needed to end hostilities.

“Everything that can be done to help the Ukrainian people and stop the war must be done,” he said on Sunday.

Austria traditionally has close ties with Russia, but has condemned alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Austrian officials said the trip was coordinated with leaders of European Union institutions, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

A German government spokeswoman welcomed Mr Nehammer’s trip to Moscow and said Berlin supported his diplomatic initiative.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Monday that talks between Mr Putin and Mr Nehammer would focus on Ukraine, but the two leaders could also discuss Russian gas exports to Europe.

“The main topic will be the situation around Ukraine, but on the other hand, talks about gas cannot be ruled out, because this topic is very, very relevant for the Austrian side,” Peskov said. .

More than 80% of Austria’s gas imports come from Russia, and the country has ruled out sanctions that would hurt Mosco’s energy exports.

Austria’s model of neutrality is among those discussed as possible models for Ukraine in negotiations with Russia. Moscow has made Ukraine’s neutrality one of the conditions for ending the war, a condition that Ukraine has said it is ready to consider.

In a recent conversation with Mr. Scholz, Mr. Putin appeared to accept Austrian-style neutrality as part of a potential deal, a German official said.

A 1955 treaty offers Austria security guarantees from Russia, the United States, Britain and France, while Vienna invests in its own defense at the same time.

“Austria’s self-determined neutrality has been fully accepted by Moscow and is clearly a model in the talks with Ukraine, but the question remains who would offer similar guarantees to Kyiv,” said Hans Mahr, a former Austrian manager and analyst.

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