United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, says it is time for a diplomatic solution to be found to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, amidst signs of hope that progress can be made to end an “unwinnable” and “indefensible” war.
Guterres said this on Tuesday while briefing journalists after the Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York.
The secretary general told journalists about his own outreach efforts with “various actors”, “elements of diplomatic progress coming into view on several key issues.”
He said there was “enough on the table” for an immediate ceasefire, and the start of serious talks to stop the slaughter in Ukrainian cities such a Mariupol.
“This war is unwinnable”, he said, in a stark message to Russia. “Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table. This is inevitable.
“The only question is: ‘How many more lives must be lost?’
“How many more bombs must fall? How many more Mariupols must be destroyed? How many more Ukrainians and Russians will be killed before everyone realizes that this war has no winners – only losers?”
Continuing the fighting, Guterres said, is “morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical.”
He reminded that Russia launched its invasion a month ago, in violation of the UN Charter, after months of military buildup. Since then, it has inflicted “appalling human suffering and destruction in cities, towns and villages.
“There has been systematic bombardments that terrorized civilians. The shelling of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and shelters.”
“But the reality for Russia,” he added, “is that the war is going nowhere, fast. For more than two weeks, Mariupol has been encircled by the Russian army and relentlessly bombed, shelled and attacked. For what? Even if Mariupol falls”, he warned, “Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house.
“The only outcome would be more suffering,” he said, adding “The Ukrainian people are enduring a living hell – and the reverberations are being felt worldwide with skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices threatening to spiral into a global hunger crisis.”
He repeated his concern that developing countries – after just a month of brutal fighting in one of the world’s grain producing breadbaskets, and already suffocating under the burden of COVID and inadequate financing – are already suffering economic shocks worldwide.
“What I said from this podium almost one month ago should be even more evident today. By any measure – by even the shrewdest calculation – it is time to stop the fighting and give peace a chance.
“It is time to end this absurd war.”
More than 3.5 million refugees have fled the country, UN humanitarians said on Tuesday, citing massive needs among the new arrivals.
“This is really another tragic milestone for the people of Ukraine and it’s been achieved in just under one month,” Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said.
Confirming UNHCR data, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) representative in Poland, Dr Paloma Cuchi said that Ukraine’s neighbour had welcomed “around two million people, this is about 61 per cent of the refugees in Poland”.
About two-thirds of them said that they wanted to stay in Poland “because it’s close to home and they are thinking of going back if the situation permits”.
Amid ongoing reports that Russian shelling has continued to target heavily built-up areas inside Ukraine, latest WHO information confirmed 62 attacks on health care facilities inside Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on February 24.
“As you can imagine, access to health care in Ukraine is very restricted,” Cuchi said. “And on top of that, refugees are coming from a long, difficult and dangerous journeys, you know, until they arrive at the border of Poland.
“Children are travelling for days without proper food, without the proper water. They are tired, they are worried.
“Many refugees also have chronic health care needs which require urgent assistance, as they can no longer be treated inside Ukraine because of the deadly threat of violence,” the WHO official explained.
“There is a tremendous number of senior refugees…that have been without their medications for days, they come with decompensated diabetes, with blood pressure with other health problems, and of course, we have pregnant women, who are without prenatal care.
“New arrivals from Ukraine receive assistance in reception centres. Common complaints include fever, diarrhoea, hypothermia, upper-respiratory tract infections, cardiac arrest, mental and emotional distress.
“Some refugees with long-term, chronic, and rare diseases need to be referred immediately to trusted hospitals in Poland, the EU, or elsewhere where beds are available to receive treatment,” the UN agency noted.