In the opinion of Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signaled concessions on grain exports and the treatment of prisoners of war in the Ukraine war. After a 45-minute phone call with the Russian President on Friday, Nehammer said that Putin had promised to negotiate again with Kyiv on the issue of the prisoner exchange.

According to Putin, the International Red Cross will have access to the prisoners of war, the head of government said in Vienna. In addition, he senses a certain flexibility on the part of Moscow with regard to the problem of grain exports from Ukraine, which are currently extremely difficult.

“Putin has given signals that he is quite ready to allow exports via the seaports,” said Nehammer. The ports required for this would probably have to be cleared of mines laid out for defense purposes, which Moscow should not take advantage of, said Nehammer. The Kremlin said Putin warned Nehammer that there was no reason to blame Russia for the food delivery problems.

Overall, the phone call was “very intense and very serious”. In the tradition of its “active policy of neutrality”, Austria is trying to remain in dialogue with all parties to the conflict. (dpa)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address representatives of the 27 member states via video at the beginning of the special EU summit next Monday. Zelenskyy will be present at the beginning of the deliberations on the situation in Ukraine via video conference, announced EU Council President Charles Michel on Friday in his invitation to the heads of state and government. The EU is currently struggling to stop imports of Russian oil, which Hungary is blocking.

According to Michel, the EU summit will primarily deal with the financial aid that Ukraine urgently needs, the energy and food crisis resulting from the war and the joint procurement of armaments. (AFP)

Slovakia has significantly reduced its dependence on Russian gas supplies. This was announced by Prime Minister Eduard Heger and Economics Minister Richard Sulik on Friday. Heger announced the start of test operations of a gas pipeline connecting Poland and Slovakia at a newly built natural gas compressor station in the eastern Slovakian municipality of Vyrava. The pipeline, which was built with EU subsidies, will enable Slovakia to also obtain gas from Norway and overseas.

Economics Minister Richard Sulik announced in Bratislava that several gas supply contracts had been signed. An agreement with Norway could cover 32 percent of Slovakia’s needs from June. Another 33 percent are secured by other agreements concluded at the same time for the delivery of liquid gas by tankers via the Baltic Sea and Poland. (dpa)

After Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyj also spoke to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi about the acute grain crisis as a result of the war. However, during the call there does not seem to have been any major step towards a solution to the huge amounts of grain in Ukrainian ports blocked by Russian ships. Selenskyj thanked Rome for the initiative and agreed “to stay in touch about possible solutions,” Draghi’s office said on Friday.

Because the grain cannot currently be exported, poorer importing countries in Africa, for example, are facing a major food crisis. Putin called Draghi on Thursday and demanded that the West lift its sanctions against Russia. Then Moscow would also be ready to let ships with grain and fertilizer pass through again from the ports on the Black Sea. (dpa)

Russia’s central bank allows Russian citizens to buy the stocks of companies from countries deemed “friendly”. According to the central bank, the prerequisite is that the transactions take place in rubles or in the currency of the respective country. Some of the restrictions on foreign investments would be lifted, it said in a statement. Russia usually refers to countries as “unfriendly” when they have imposed sanctions. (Reuters)

In the Primorsky Krai, in the easternmost part of Russia, two communist lawmakers have publicly called for an end to the offensive in Ukraine.

If our country doesn’t stop the military operation, there will be more orphans in our country. We demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops.

Vasyukevich’s faction colleague Gennady Chulga agreed with him. Scattered applause was heard after the speech, which was broadcast on the regional parliament’s Youtube channels and the newspaper Kommersant. It is the first time MPs from the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) have made such public statements. The CPRF supports the military operation in the neighboring country, which began on February 24 on the orders of President Vladimir Putin. (AFP)

Unknown persons placed the Ukrainian flag on a mountain peak in Kyrgyzstan named after Russian head of state Vladimir Putin – but it has since been removed by members of the Kyrgyz Mountaineering Association. Instead, they placed a Kyrgyz flag there.

The Ukrainian flag was removed by his association’s own decision, and there was no political motive behind it, emphasized Kubatov. He said it was “uncomfortable to be drawn into politics”. But he was certain that “only Kyrgyz flags should fly over Kyrgyz mountains,” he said.

The 4,446 meter peak in the Tian Shan Mountains was baptized in Putin’s honor in 2011. At the beginning of the week, a video appeared on the online service Twitter showing a Ukrainian flag near the name plaque of the summit. (AFP)

The state-owned Ukrainian gas company and network operator is demanding that Germany stop or severely restrict natural gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. A corresponding request had been sent to the German government, explains Serhiy Makogon on Ukrainian television.

German law allows the pipeline to be operated on condition that this secures Europe’s gas supply. However, Russia “violated these principles”. Nord Stream 1 has been an important part of Germany’s gas supply for about a decade. The pipeline runs from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Russia threatened to cut the line in early March. (Reuters)

After his trips to Africa and to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at the German Catholic Day in Stuttgart on Friday and thanked the Germans for their great solidarity with the Ukrainians. He praised the willingness to help in taking in Ukrainian refugees. The citizens did “that quite well,” he said.

Scholz defended the sanctions against Russia and arms deliveries to Ukraine. He knows this raises questions. “May violence be fought with violence?” Can peace only be achieved without weapons? This has to be discussed and other views have to be treated with respect. The event was disrupted by heckling from activists, which Scholz briefly addressed.

The former chairwoman of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Margot Käßmann, reiterated her negative attitude to arms deliveries. The Ukraine war does not mark a “turning point” for her just because the fighting is now closer to Germany, she said on Friday morning in Stuttgart, according to a statement from the Catholic Day. The war has been raging in Syria for eleven years and in Yemen for seven years. “More guns didn’t bring more peace,” she said. (epd)

The Bavarian State Government Commissioner for Jewish Life and Against Anti-Semitism, Ludwig Spaenle, has criticized the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) for a controversial cartoon. This shows the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj as an oversized figure at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Spaenle said in Munich on Friday that caricatures are a special form of expressing opinions and of artistic creativity – and there must also be great freedom. “However, I consider this caricature to be a bad distortion of the President of Ukraine and I do not think that is acceptable.” The form of representation awakens anti-Semitic clichés in many people who are far removed from reality. The Ukrainian President has Jewish roots. Spaenle emphasized that the whole thing was also disturbing for him personally because he valued the newspaper’s reporting on anti-Semitic currents, incidents and crimes.

Many voices had previously expressed similar criticism on the Internet and in some cases also made references to earlier cartoons in the newspaper. The “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, one of the largest national newspapers in Germany, reacted on Twitter to criticism of the caricature in the holiday edition: “This caricature is the graphic implementation of the television pictures from Monday: The Ukrainian President on the video wall, and thus in XXL format, in front of the audience in Davos. It illustrates how dominant the topic of Ukraine is there.” The newspaper also placed a video recording of the forum directly under the cartoon in the tweet. (dpa)

According to insiders, talks between Turkey and Finland and Sweden about NATO accession for the two Nordic countries are making little progress. “It’s not easy,” says a representative from Turkey. Concrete steps would have to be taken, which could be painful. The talks would continue, but there is no date yet. Delegations from Finland and Sweden were in Turkey this week to allay Turkey’s concerns. All 30 countries must agree to join NATO. However, Turkey opposes this. (Reuters)

At least 8,766 civilians have been injured or killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began three months ago, according to the United Nations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday in Geneva that 4,031 people had died and 4,735 others were injured.

According to the information, 261 children are among those killed. Another 406 girls and boys were injured. According to the High Commissioner, the information on the civilian casualties recorded relates to the period from the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 to Thursday. The actual number of civilians killed and injured is likely to be much higher, it said.

Most civilians were killed or injured when fired from explosive weapons – such as artillery and rocket launchers – from a wide radius. In addition, civilians were hit in airstrikes. The intentional shelling of residential areas and civilians is a war crime, according to the High Commissioner. (epd)