UN doing all it can to make evacuation from Ukrainian steel plant possible – Guterres
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after talks in Kyiv on Thursday (April 28) that his organisation was doing all it could to enable the evacuation of a steel plant where fighters and civilians are holed up in the city of Mariupol.
“At the present moment I can only tell you we are doing everything we can to make it happen. Iâ€™m not going to enter into any comment that could undermine that possibility,” he said after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy.
The meeting with Zelenskiyy followed talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (April 26) where the latter agreed “in principle” to U.N. and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in evacuating the Azovstal plan.
Guterres called the situation in Mariupol “a crisis within a crisis”, adding that civilians “need an escape route out of the apocalypse.”
Referring to the possibility of a United Nations and ICRC-coordinated humanitarian corridor for the hundreds of civilians believed to still be in Azovstal, Guterres said: “As we speak, there are intense discussions to move forward on this proposal to make it a reality.”
On April 21, nearly two months into the siege of the strategic port city, Russia declared victory in Mariupol although remaining Ukrainian forces were holding out in a vast underground complex below Azovstal, where civilians were also sheltering.
The United States accused Russia of planning to stage fake independence votes to justify its conquest of territory in Ukraine, as Russian forces stepped up an assault on the east.
The US mission to the OSCE said the Kremlin might attempt”sham referenda” in southern and eastern areas it had captured since the Feb. 24 invasion, using “a well-worn playbook that steals from history’s darkest chapters”.
United States President Joe Biden asks Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine as well as new legal tools to tighten sanctions and syphon assets from Russian oligarchs.
“The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly,” said Biden at the White House.
NATO is ready to maintain support for Ukraine for years in the war against Russia, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Putin warns of retaliation to any interference in Ukraine:
“The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” Ukraine’s military command said.
Ukraine fired three rockets at the centre of the southern city of Kherson but Russian occupying forces shot down two of them, RIA news agency cited a security source as saying.
Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said, as Moscow tightened its grip over the southern region.
Two powerful blasts were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters. It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts.
Western countries are openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russia and the West should take Moscow seriously when it says strikes on Russian territory will lead to a response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
Reports of battlefield developments could not be immediately verified by Reuters.
Ukraine’s lead negotiator said no agreement had been reached for the Ukrainian and Russian presidents to discuss the war despite efforts by Turkey to arrange talks.
HUMAN AND ECONOMIC IMPACT
The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered inUkraine’s Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion and 50-70% of them have bullet wounds from small arms, Kyiv police said.
Real disposable incomes in Russia dropped 27.8% in the first quarter of 2022, the official statistics service said,pointing to a slide in purchasing power since the Ukraine conflict began.
“The situation is difficult, but we’re going to battle and fight for as long as we have to,” said Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander in Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, from the besieged steel works in Mariupol.
Russia launched a missile attack in Kyiv.
“Innocent civilians were living in these buildings, they were paying the highest price for a war which they have not contributed to at all,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is visiting the formerly Russian-occupied Kiev Suburbs of Borodyanka and Bucha.
“I am here to say to you, Mr. President & to the people of Ukraine: We will not give up.”
At press conference with @ZelenskyyUa, @antonioguterres says UN will keep pushing for ceasefire while working on immediate steps to save lives & reduce suffering. https://t.co/QCa2eT6DvD pic.twitter.com/e7oIjTq7EN
— United Nations (@UN) April 28, 2022
“The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil.”
— United Nations (@UN) April 28, 2022
War is evil. pic.twitter.com/LUKYqLTnyB
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 28, 2022