Austrian Chancellor promises more sanctions during Kyiv visit

Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Kyiv on Saturday and promised to keep ramping up sanctions against Russia until the war ends, but faced tough questions.

Austrian Chancellor promises more sanctions during Kyiv visit
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer 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 JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP)

Austria is supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia with humanitarian aid and technology and “not only with words”, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said at a joint press conference on Saturday.

Nehammer (ÖVP) spoke with the Ukrainian leader in Kyiv during a “solidarity visit” and promised more support for the country’s armed forces, including rescue vehicles and fire trucks. Nehammer also promised more fuel donations and stated that sanctions against Russia would only escalate until the war stops.

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

“While Ukrainian people die, there are not enough sanctions”, Nehammer said.

The ÖVP politician also asked for an international investigation of the alleged war crimes perpetrated by Russian troops.

Austria is a neutral country, and it cannot send deadly weapons or military assistance to Ukraine, but Zelensky thanked the Austrian authorities for “providing help by other means”.

Nehammer faced with hard questions

When asked why Austria wouldn’t agree to a total gas embargo against Russia, Nehammer said that the European Union measures against the country would become more targeted, reaching components of aircraft and drones.

However, the Chancellor, who has a military background, said that sanctions must affect those against whom they are directed – not those who are enforcing them.

He promised the sanctions would be the “toughest in the history of the EU” and that Austria would be a reliable partner in advocating them.

Like many other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Austria is heavily dependent on Russia to fulfill its energy demands.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Elisabeth Christen, Senior Economist at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Wifo), told The Local that 80 per cent of Austria’s gas is imported from Russia and that most of the EU is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

The activities of the Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank with significant exposure to Russian debt, were also questioned.

Nehammer said that the bank has many branches not only in Russia but that it is also a significant employer in Ukraine. He added that Raiffeisen “immediately supported” the sanctions against Russia and that circumvention of the measures would not be accepted in Austria.

READ ALSO: Why did Austria change policy to expel Russian diplomats?

The Austrian chancellor was the most recent of several EU heads of state to visit Ukraine. This Friday, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen was also in Kyiv. She said that “Ukraine belongs with the European family”.

Zelensky stated that the solidarity visits are a “beautiful signal” that the world stands with Ukraine.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.