Austria to send protective equipment and fuel to Ukraine

Austria will provide helmets and protective equipment for civilian forces in Ukraine, Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed on Monday, while the country is also preparing for a possible influx of refugees.

Chancellor of Austria Karl Nehammer speaks to the press as he arrives to attend an European Union Summit with all 27 EU leaders at The European Council Building in Brussels on December 16, 2021. - The lightning spread of Omicron in Europe and elsewhere has added a sense of urgency to an EU summit on December 16, 2021, with leaders struggling to present a united, bloc-wide approach. (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / various sources / AFP)
Chancellor of Austria Karl Nehammer speaks to the press as he arrives to attend an European Union Summit with all 27 EU leaders at The European Council Building in Brussels on December 16, 2021. - (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / various sources / AFP)

Austria has decided to send Ukraine helmets, protective equipment for civilian forces, and fuel supplies, chancellor Karl Nehammer said after a meeting with the crisis committee on Monday, 28th of February. 

Nehammer stated that the situation in Ukraine is still unpredictable, especially as Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to put nuclear forces on high alert on Sunday. 

“We will do everything possible to protect Austrians and prepare our country in the best possible way for any effects of a worsening of the situation,” the chancellor said, Der Standard reported.

He added that there is no reason for panic in the country and no need to stockpile goods and products. 

UPDATED: How Austria could be impacted by the war in Ukraine

The country will also send further assistance to Ukraine, the chancellor said.

The aid package includes 100,000 litres of fuel. This adds to last week’s €2.5m for the Red Cross and the other humanitarian agencies and convoys with donations that Austria has sent to Ukraine.

In addition, a second aid package will contain a further €15m for Austria’s Foreign Minister’s Foreign Disaster Fund.

Non-lethal aid

Austria will continue sending non-lethal aid to Ukrainians, including 10,000 helmets destined to protect the civilian population. 

This follows Austria’s long-standing neutrality policy, with the Austrian State Treaty declaring that Austria can’t join a military alliance, allow the establishment of foreign military bases within Austria, or participate in a war.

READ MORE: The history behind Austria’s commitment to neutrality

Despite that, the country has positioned itself against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and will continue to participate in the European Union sanctions against Russia, Nehammer said.

The government is also in consultation with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania regarding the Ukrainian refugees fleeing war.

“Austria is well prepared” to help the refugees, Nehammer claimed.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects 1.2 million people to seek refuge beyond Ukraine’s national borders; many of them are expected to come to Austria.

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REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?