Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him on Friday that Moscow would meet its natural gas delivery commitments to Austria and was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.
Nehammer made the comments to reporters after the two leaders held a 45-minute telephone call that Nehammer described as a chance to confront Putin with the realities of the war in Ukraine and discuss prospects for humanitarian solutions.
Asked what Putin had told him about gas deliveries, the Austrian conservative said: “He also raised the subject (and said) that all deliveries would be completed in full.”
In a separate statement, the Kremlin said Russia had reaffirmed its commitment to supply natural gas to Austria, which gets 80% of its gas from Russia.
Nehammer, who visited Russia last month for talks with Putin, said the Russian leader had expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.
“Whether he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question,” he added.
Russia describes the three-month-old incursion as a special military operation to disarm its neighbour and remove dangerous nationalists from power. The Kyiv and its allies in the West say the charge is bogus and says the invasion of Ukraine is an unprovoked attack.
Quitting Russian natural gas will be very challenging for some European countries 🇷🇺
🇦🇹 Austria’s top energy official said it will take years to wean off Russian gas
💪Austria gets ~80% of its gas from Russia. They may need it this year to fill storagehttps://t.co/U3uyox2wC9
— Stephen Stapczynski (@SStapczynski) May 6, 2022
Nehammer said Putin had repeatedly defended Moscow’s actions and blamed Western sanctions for economic disruptions that ensued. He said he thought Putin was creating facts on the group to take into negotiations.
Putin was “entirely aware” of the issue of food security, Nehammer said of the conversation, adding Putin “gave signals” that he was ready to allow exports over seaports but had linked progress to the lifting of Western sanctions.
The Kremlin statement said Putin had discussed work to ensure the safety of navigation in the Azov and Black Seas, saying Ukraine should clear ports of mines to allow the free passage of blocked ships.
The United States and others accuse Russia of blockading Ukraine’s ports.
Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk