UN chief Antonio Guterres to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today

The talks between Putin and Guterres are expected to focus on the besieged city of Mariupol where, despite declaring a victory, Russian forces have failed to take the Azovstal steelworks

FPJ Web Desk | Updated on: Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 11:58 AM IST

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres | AFP
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres | AFP

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is headed to Moscow for a meeting Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a renewed bid to try to get him to agree to a pause or end to his two-month assault on Ukraine.

Guterres’ spokesperson said the U.N. chief is later going to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, because Guterres feels there is a “concrete opportunity” for progress.

En route to Moscow, Guterres met Monday in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has attempted, but failed so far, to mediate an end to the fighting between Turkey’s two maritime neighbors.

The talks between Putin and Guterres are expected to focus on the besieged city of Mariupol where, despite declaring a victory, Russian forces have failed to take the Azovstal steelworks.

Ukraine forces said earlier on Tuesday that Russia continued to blockade its units at the plant. Ukraine has asked Guterres to guarantee a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians sheltering inside Azovstal.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview he was concerned that by visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.

Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol.

An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.

“You can see that even the willingness of the parties to meet with him, to discuss things with him, is an opening,” Guterres spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters. “We will see what we can do, whether we can get a concrete improvement in the humanitarian situation. Whether we can get the fighting to stop for any period of time.”

Guterres has made repeated calls for a humanitarian cease-fire or a brief pause in fighting but has been unsuccessful.

Haq said he didn’t want to “oversell the possibility” that either of these could happen, cautioning that diplomacy is neither quick nor a magic wand. But he said Guterres is willing to take a chance to try to improve the situation.

“Because ultimately, if we can move ahead, even in small way, it will mean a tremendous amount to tens, even hundreds of thousands of people,” Haq said.

But Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Monday that a humanitarian cease-fire is unnecessary.

“We don’t think that a cease-fire is a good option right now, because the only advantage it will give — it will give possibility for Ukrainian forces to regroup and to stage 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 scheduled to travel to Ukraine to have a working meeting with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and to be received by Zelenskyy. Guterres also is scheduled to meet with U.N. staff “to discuss the scaling up of humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine.”

Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will come after Oleksii Reznikov, the country’s defense minister, authored a scathing Wall Street Journal op-ed that was published last Thursday and accused the United Nations of being “an enabler of Russian war crimes.”

Zelenskyy also has issued harsh criticisms of the U.N. throughout Russia’s invasion. Speaking before the Security Council earlier this month, he demanded that the key U.N. panel punish Russia and curb its influence over the organization — or else dissolve itself entirely and admit it is powerless to stop Putin’s bloody war.

Days later, the U.N. General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council over allegations of war crimes. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield led the campaign to strip Russia of its seat.

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Published on: Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 11:58 AM IST