Next week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Moscow and Kyiv as part of his attempts to end Ukraine’s two-month-long conflict.
Since Russia invaded on February 24, more than five million people have fled the east European country, and many have been slain. There are also mounting concerns for the 100,000 inhabitants who remain in Mariupol, which is under siege.
On Tuesday, Guterres will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. On Thursday, Guterres will go to Kyiv, Ukraine, to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
At a press conference in New York, UN Spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said Guterres wants to talk about “measures that can be implemented right now” to stop the fighting and help people get to safety.
The Russian incursion has been dubbed “the worst moment” of Guterres’ five years as UN Secretary-General. His request for a four-day “humanitarian halt” ahead of Orthodox Easter fell on deaf ears earlier this week.
In separate letters addressed to their countries’ permanent embassies to the United Nations, Guterres requested a meeting with the leaders of both countries in an attempt by the UN to reclaim diplomatic initiative.
Because Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with a veto, the UN Security Council has been handicapped by the war. In March, 141 countries adopted a resolution denouncing the war and demanding on Russia to “immediately, completely, and unconditionally” withdraw its forces from Ukraine during an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The UN’s top humanitarian officer visited both capitals earlier this month to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire, and fears about the fate of residents in Mariupol are growing.
The Russian army is encircling the strategically important port city, while Ukrainian soldiers and residents are holed up in a massive steel mill on the shore. According to the Institute for the Study of War’s most recent assessment, Russia’s objective appears to be “to starve out” the remaining military and civilians.