UN Secretary-General António Guterres today said he came to Moscow as a “messenger of peace,” and had had “frank discussions” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“My objective and my agenda are strictly linked to saving lives and reduce suffering,” Mr. Guterres told a joint press conference.
“I had a very frank discussion with the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and it is very clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine.”
He said the Russian Federation maintains that what is taking place is a special military operation with objectives that have been announced.
“According to the UN in line with resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Russia´s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and the Charter of the United Nations. 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 the world,” the Secretary-General said.
“The United Nations has repeatedly called for ceasefires to protect civilians and to facilitate a political dialogue to reach a solution.”
He warned that across the Donbas, a violent battle is underway with tremendous death and destruction.
“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 called for the urgent establishment of truly safe humanitarian corridors 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.”
Mr. Guterres said that there was “a crisis within a crisis in Mariupol,” and that the “United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol.”
He called for the coordination between Russia, Ukraine, the UN, and the Red Cross 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.
The Secretary-General also addressed the “shock waves” of the conflict 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,” the Secretary-General said. “So, the sooner peace is established, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and for the world.”
Later the Secretary-General met President Vladimir Putin.
During the tête-a-tête meeting, the Secretary-General 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 had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry.
On Thursday he will travel to Ukraine for talks with Ukrainian authorities.
© Photo: from the UN spokesperson´s Twitter account.