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guterres: After Russia visit, UN chief Guterres arrives in Ukraine

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UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday to hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, after his visit to Moscow where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin who agreed “in principle” to the involvement of the UN in evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
“I have arrived in Ukraine after visiting Moscow. We will continue our work to expand humanitarian support & secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. The sooner this war ends, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the world,” Guterres tweeted.
Guterres and his team travelled from Rzeszow, Poland to Kyiv, Ukraine.
On Thursday, he will meet Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and is also expected to make a field visit.
According to a readout of his tete-a-tete meeting with Putin, Guterres reiterated the United Nations’ position on Ukraine, and they discussed the proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol.
“The President agreed, in principle, to the involvement of the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Follow-on discussions will be held with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry,” the readout said.
Two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Guterres travelled to meet Putin and Zelenskyy as he called for “urgent steps to save lives, end the human suffering and bring about peace in Ukraine.”
“As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I came to Moscow as messenger of peace. My objective and my agenda is strictly linked to save lives and to reduce suffering,” Guterres said in Moscow during a press encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.
Guterres said Russia believes what is taking place in Ukraine is a special military operation while the UN, in line with the resolutions passed by the General Assembly, feels that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and against the Charter of the United Nations.
“But it is my deep conviction that the sooner we end this war, the better – for the people of Ukraine, for the people of the Russian Federation, and those far beyond,” he said.
The UN chief underlined the urgent need for humanitarian corridors that are truly safe and effective and that are respected by all to evacuate civilians and deliver much-needed assistance.
“To that end, I have proposed the establishment of a Humanitarian Contact Group, bringing together the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations, to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective,” he said.
Recognising that “we face a crisis within a crisis in Mariupol”, Guterres proposed a coordinated work of the UN, Red Cross, and the Ukrainian and Russian forces to enable the safe evacuation of those civilians who want to leave, both inside the Azovstal plant and in the city, in any direction they chose, and to deliver the humanitarian aid required.
He also voiced concern over the civilians being killed in the conflict, and hundreds of thousands of people in life-threatening conditions, trapped by the conflict.
“I am concerned about the repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes, and they require independent investigation for effective accountability,” he said.
Guterres emphasised that as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, “we are seeing shock waves around the world.”
The dramatic acceleration of the increases of the prices for food and energy, that was already taking place in the last year, are causing enormous suffering to hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable people worldwide. This comes on top of the shock of the continued COVID-19 pandemic and uneven access to resources for recovery, that particularly penalize developing countries around the world, he said.
“So, the sooner peace is established, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and for the world,” he said.
On Monday, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, responded to criticism by Zelenskyy over Guterres’ visits.
The Ukrainian leader had said that “it is simply wrong to go first to Russia and then to Ukraine,” adding that “there is no justice and no logic in this order.”
Haq said that the important thing was to visit the two countries and meet with the leaders.
“We worked out an itinerary and, indeed, we worked it out with both sides, and both sides had accepted it in the days before he set out on his travel. So, he is doing that. There’s no particular significance in him visiting one country ahead of the other,” he said.





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