On Monday Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first EU leader to meet face-to-face with Vladimir Putin since the war began on Feb.24. He said that talks were "open and tough" but that it was "not a friendly visit."
Following the meeting which was at Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence just outside Moscow, the Austrian leader's office issued a statement saying, "This is not a friendly visit. I have just come from Ukraine and have seen with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression."
Nehammer is said to have confronted Putin on multiple war crimes and human rights abuses alleged against Russian troops during the 75-minute meeting.
Austria's official statement of the meeting continued:
''I addressed the serious war crimes in Bucha and other places and emphasized that all those responsible for them must be held accountable," Nehammer said, according to the statement. "I also told President Putin in no uncertain terms that sanctions against Russia will remain in place and will continue to be tightened as long as people are dying in Ukraine."
On what's widely being alleged in the West as the 'Bucha massacre' - which left a reported 300 Ukrainian civilians dead, many of them in the streets - Nehammer described that when confronted Putin blamed Ukrainian militants, saying they were "responsible for the crimes in Bucha" and not Russian troops.
The Austrian head of state came under fire for the visit, as going to Moscow to meet Putin face-to-face was hugely controversial in some quarters among EU officials. However, Nehammer described the purpose as to confront the Russian President "with the facts".
"What is important is a personal meeting, phoning is one thing, but you really need to look each other in the eye, you need to talk about the cruelty of war," Nehammer described of the rationale for the official visit. He told Putin that those guilty of war crimes "have to be brought to justice."
With Sweden and Norway well on the road to NATO membership, France committed to grandstanding, and Ireland being rather...preachy, Austria is the only remaining European choice for an interlocutor.— Peter Zeihan (@PeterZeihan) April 11, 2022
Apparently it went badly. https://t.co/DhsK79ad7P
"Of course, when you talk to him for the first, second, third time, we can't expect him to change his view ... I didn't expect that. But it is important to confront President Vladimir Putin. Every day is a day too long in the war, every ... death is one too many," he told reporters during a post-meeting press conference in Moscow.