Austria’s Nehammer to visit Zelensky in Ukraine

The plans were announced on Tuesday following reports of atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer. Photo: Geert Vanden WIJNGAERT / POOL / AFP)
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer. Photo: Geert Vanden WIJNGAERT / POOL / AFP)

Austrian Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer is planning to visit President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Ukraine in the coming days.

Nehammer will make the journey with the aim to “continue to provide Ukraine with the best possible humanitarian and political support”, although details about the trip are limited due to “security reasons”.

Last month, Zelenskiy was denied permission to address the Austrian parliament on the grounds that Austria is a neutral country but Nehammer spoke with Zelenskiy in a phone call on Monday night.

EXPLAINED: Why Austria won’t allow Ukraine’s Zelensky to speak before parliament

On Tuesday he then confirmed he will travel to Ukraine to meet with Zelenskiy. 

In a Tweet Nehammer said: “I was on the phone with the President @ZelenskyyUa yesterday. We have discussed that I will travel to #Ukraine to get an idea of the situation on site and to talk about further assistance.”

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

According to the Kurier, Austria has already provided Ukraine with more than €17.5 million from the Foreign Disaster Fund, as well as 10,000 helmets and over 9,100 protective vests for civilian use. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Foreign Policy Representative Josep Borrell will also travel to Kyiv this week.

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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?