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Topline

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, he announced Sunday afternoon, marking the first visit of an avowed Putin critic to the Kremlin since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Key Facts

In a tweet announcing his visit, Nehammer urged Putin to stop the war on Ukraine and called for a war crimes investigation, ceasefire agreement and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.

Nehammer noted Austria has a clear stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite its military neutrality: Austria isn’t a member of NATO but is a member of the European Union and has participated in the EU’s sanctions on Russia.

Nehammer, who visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said he informed Zelensky, the EU’s European Commission President Angela von der Leyen and several other world leaders of his plans.

Key Background

Leading up to Putin’s ordering of Russian troops into Ukraine February 24, a steady stream of Western leaders engaged in diplomacy with Russia and visited the Kremlin, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose country has largely remained neutral in the conflict, is one of the only world leaders to visit Russia since Putin ordered the invasion.

What To Watch For

If images emerge of extreme social distance separating Nehammer and Putin during their meeting. Macron, Scholz and other visitors were pictured sitting at the opposite end of an approximately 20-foot table from Putin during their visits to Moscow. The explanations for the extreme distance is shrouded in mystery, ranging from reported extreme health paranoia from Putin to Macron’s purported fears Russia could spy on him using a Covid-19 PCR test.

Tangent

Russia called for Ukraine to adopt an Austrian model of military neutrality in its negotiations with Ukraine last month, a request that was denied by the Ukrainian delegation.

Further Reading

Putin’s Long Tables Explained: Why He Puts Some Leaders, Including Germany’s Scholz, At An Extreme Distance (Forbes)

Source: Forbes

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