Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer traveled to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin, becoming the first E.U. member to set foot on Russian soil during war, for a dialogue on the war conflict and reportedly on the gas situation. 

Nehammer spoke for 75 minutes with Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence near Moscow, said Nehammer’s spokesman, who described the dialogue as “very direct, open and tough,” according to CNN.

The official emphasized that a face-to-face meeting to talk was important, “For me, there is no alternative to seeking direct talks with Russia as well, despite all the very great differences.”

Before the meeting, Russia’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, explained that the main topic would be the situation around Ukraine, but he would not rule out the discussion of gas problems, as it is a relevant issue for the Austrian side, Interfax reported.

Austria, which is part of the European Union, gets 80% of its natural gas from Russia and has so far not objected to stop importing Russian gas, according to AP

The meeting had been coordinated with Austria’s “essential partners,” including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel, RT reported.

In addition, Nehammer traveled to Russia after meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on April 9.

The Austrian chancellor noted that he is still hopeful about the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Turkey.

On the other hand, after the meetings in Istanbul on March 28, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that during the talks held by the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, sufficient progress was made for Putin and Zelensky to meet. “We have documents prepared now which allow the presidents to meet on a bilateral basis,” Podolyak told CNN.

“The Russian delegation is constructive and aware.” But, of course, “This doesn’t mean that negotiations are easy. They are very difficult. But the Russian side is paying attention to the Russian proposals, to the Ukrainian proposals,” he added.

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