UN chief asks for separate meetings with Russian, Ukrainian leaders to end the war

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 (APP): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the leaders of Russia and Ukraine for separate meetings in a bid to end the devastating war, his spokesman said Wednesday.

At his regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that letters requesting the meetings with the two leaders were handed to the Permanent Missions of Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon.

“In these letters, the Secretary-General asked (Russian) President Vladimir Putin to receive him in Moscow and (Ukrainian) President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to receive him in Kyiv,” Dujarric told reporters.

“The Secretary-General said, at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law,” he added.

Guterres noted that Ukraine and Russia are founding members of the UN and “have always been strong supporters of this Organization,” Dujarric pointed out.

The announcement came a day after the UN chief called for a humanitarian pause in Ukraine ahead of Orthodox Christian Easter this weekend.

The UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, Amin Awad, has underlined the Secretary-General’s appeal amid the mounting humanitarian crisis in the country and the intensifying Russian offensive in the east.

The four-day pause would allow for safe passage of civilians willing to leave conflict areas, he said, and the safe delivery of urgent humanitarian aid to people in the hardest hit areas of Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.

“During this week – which marks a rare calendar alignment of the three of the most sacred religious holidays of Christian Orthodox Easter, Jewish Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – it is the time to focus on converging interests and set aside our differences,” Awad added.

Casualties continue to mount in the war in Ukraine, which began on 24 February. There were 5,121 civilian casualties in the country as of Tuesday, including 2,224 deaths, according to the latest update from the UN human rights office, OHCR.

As Awad stated: “The loss of life and severe trauma caused by attacks on hospitals, schools and places of refuge is utterly shocking, as is the devastation of critical civilian infrastructure in the country.”

The Ukraine conflict has generated the largest and fastest displacement in recent years, according to UN humanitarian agencies.

Some 12 million people have been forced to flee their homes, with more than five million crossing the border into neighbouring countries and beyond.

Many of those left behind do not have access to water or electricity, while another 12 million are affected by economic hardship and a decline in services.

In eastern Ukraine, some 1.4 million people are without access to running water, including in the besieged port city of Mariupol. Millions more have only limited access to water and electricity.

Additionally, some 136 attacks on health care facilities have been recorded since the start of the war, representing nearly 70 per cent of worldwide attacks on health so far this year.

Growing insecurity, including due to contamination with explosive devices, is a significant obstacle to accessing hard to reach areas in the east.

“This terrible toll on civilians must come to an end,” said Awad, warning that the war’s devastating impact could affect Ukraine for generations.

“The immediate impact of this senseless war is the gravest here in Ukraine but it could have global ramifications, putting 1.7 billion people worldwide at risk of poverty, hunger and destitution”.