Bettel speaks to Putin over phone, urges end of war
Luxembourg premier is next among western leaders to speak to Putin as war intensifies
(Updates Bettel's office describing telephone conversation with Zelensky on Monday.)
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel urged Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop the war in a phone call on Monday morning, in the latest conversation between a western leader and the man who launched a war that has already killed thousands and displaced millions.
Bettel told Putin to speak directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Bettel himself had a conversation with last week. Bettel's office said later that the prime minister had another phone conversation on Monday with Ukraine's wartime leader.
"Negotiations must now continue at the highest level, president to president," Bettel had told Putin, according to a Luxembourg readout. "I would like to encourage you to establish direct contact with President Zelenskyy," it said. The call took place at Luxembourg's request, a spokesperson for Bettel said.
Russian oligarchs have extensive business interests in Luxembourg, putting a spotlight on the Grand Duchy, which has been less outspoken than other countries about its plans to seize the private jets, luxury properties and the cash belonging to the billionaires backing Putin's regime.
Europe's most powerful leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have spoken to Putin since the start of the war, but there is no sign that Russia is letting up its military efforts or even doing more to prevent the killing of civilians fleeing the war.
Bettel said he deplored the "catastrophic deterioration" of the humanitarian situation, as well as the "disastrous consequences" of the military confrontations on the civilian population, his office said.
The Kremlin confirmed the conversation took place, referring to "the Russian special military operation to protect Donbass", a euphemism it uses to describe the war. Russia already controlled Ukraine's Donbass region before the war after an earlier invasion in which Moscow also annexed the Crimea.
Last year, Bettel talked to Putin about Russia's Sputnik vaccine, raising the possibility the Grand Duchy would order the vaccine the efficacy of which has widely been doubted. In the end, no deliveries took place.
In 2019, former Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Luxembourg to strengthen business ties, with Bettel using the occasion to call for dialogue between the EU and its geopolitical rival Russia.
Bettel - whose mother is of Russian descent - raised eyebrows when he attended the wedding of a descendant of the czarist Romanov dynasty in Moscow last year, among guests that included a far-right ideologue and a Putin supporter who wants to restore the monarchy in Russia.