UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres travels to Moscow on Tuesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a fresh bid to try to get him to agree to a pause or an end to his two-month assault on Ukraine. .
Guterres’ spokesman said the UN chief would travel to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Thursday to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy because Guterres believes there is a “concrete opportunity” for progress.
On his way to Moscow, António Guterres met on Monday in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to negotiate an end to the fighting between Turkey’s two maritime neighbors.
Talks between Putin and Guterres are expected to focus on the besieged city of Mariupol where, despite declaring victory, Russian forces failed to take the Azovstal steelworks.
Ukrainian forces said earlier on Tuesday that Russia continued to block its units at the plant. Ukraine has asked António Guterres to guarantee a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilian refugees inside Azovstal.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said The Associated Press in an interview, he feared that by traveling to Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres risked falling into a Kremlin “trap” during the war.
Kuleba said Guterres “should focus mainly on one issue: the evacuation of Mariupol.
Around 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside town as a contingent of Ukrainian fighters resist Russian forces at a steelworks where hundreds of civilians are also taking refuge.
“You can see that even the willingness of the parties to meet him, to discuss with him, is an opening,” Guterres’ spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters. “We will see what we can do, if we can achieve a concrete improvement in the humanitarian situation. If we can stop the fighting for a period of time.
António Guterres has made repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire or a brief pause in the fighting, but without success.
Haq said he did not want to “overestimate the possibility” that either of these events could happen, warning that diplomacy is neither quick nor magic. But he said Guterres was ready to take a chance to try to improve the situation.
“Because at the end of the day, if we can move forward, even on a small scale, it will mean a lot to tens or even hundreds of thousands of people,” Haq said.
But Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN said on Monday that a humanitarian ceasefire was not necessary.
“We don’t think a ceasefire is a good option at the moment, because the only benefit it will bring – it will give the chance for Ukrainian forces to regroup and organize more provocations like Bucha” , Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters. referring to the Ukrainian town where Russian soldiers are accused of committing atrocities.
On Thursday, Guterres is due to travel to Ukraine to have a working meeting with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and to be received by Zelenskyy. Guterres is also due to meet with UN staff “to discuss scaling up humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people.”
Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will come after Oleksii Reznikov, the country’s defense minister, wrote a scathing Wall Street Journal op-ed that was published last Thursday and accused the United Nations of being “a catalyst for Russian war crimes”.
Zelenskyy also issued harsh criticism of the UN throughout the Russian invasion. Speaking before the Security Council earlier this month, he demanded that the key UN panel punish Russia and limit its influence over the organization – or else disband entirely and admit it is powerless to stop Putin’s bloody war.
A few days later, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council due to allegations of war crimes. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield led the campaign to strip Russia of its seat.
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 11:58 a.m. IST