Guterres: UN doing everything possible to evacuate civilians from Mariupol

Kyiv, Apr 28 (EFE).- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that the international body is doing “everything possible” to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal steelmaking plant in the Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol, where some 1,000 local residents remain holed up along with about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers surrounded by Russian forces.

Guterres also admitted at his joint press conference with Zelenskyy that the UN Security Council failed in its efforts to “prevent and end” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying: “Let me be very clear: the Security Council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war. And this is the source of great disappointment, frustration and anger.”

After meeting with Zelenskyy, Guterres said “We’re doing everything we can to make (evacuating the steel plant) happen. My first and only priority is the people who are suffering and who have to be rescued.”

The UN leader emphasized that he held “intense talks” with Zelenskyy to ensure that evacuating Mariupol becomes a “reality,” although he denied speaking about a specific schedule for accomplishing that task.

“Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis. Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility” he said, noting that although many are demanding a large-scale ceasefire, the UN is calling for immediate practical steps to save lives and alleviate suffering.

The UN chief spoke about “humanitarian corridors,” local ceasefires and safe steps to take to help civilians and establish supply routes to provide food and other humanitarian aid.

He said that the population in Mariupol is desperately in need of help of this kind, with thousands of civilians requiring aid just to stay alive, many of them needing medical assistance or having limited mobility. “They need an escape route out of the apocalypse,” he said.

In turn, Zelenskyy said that he thinks that it’s possible to lift the Russian forces’ siege of Mariupol.

“Ukraine is open to holding immediate talks to evacuate people from Azovstal and to urgently implement the agreements reached (to date). We’re also hoping for humane treatment of those people by Russia. We’re hoping that that part of the secretary-general’s mission will be effective,” the Ukrainian leader said.

He also denounced the fact that, despite the Kremlin’s promises, the steel plant remains the target of intense bombardment by the Russian military.

Guterres, who said he had reached in Moscow the beginning of an accord with Russian President Vladimir Putin, also emphasized that the UN is “committed” to helping the Ukrainian people in this “dramatic situation.”

He said that many world leaders have been making efforts to halt the combat altogether but so far there has been no success on that score, adding that he had come to Kyiv to tell Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people: “Don’t give up.”

Guterres noted that he had told Putin in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia had provoked the war in Ukraine in violation of both the UN charter and the territorial integrity of the neighboring country.

He said that “We’re not two-faced and we don’t have two languages. We’re telling the truth and responding to the values that I consider essential for peace and security.”

The Portuguese secretary-general of the international body said he was ready to intensify UN efforts in Ukraine but he also noted that “Ukraine has a government” of its own.

He said that the role of the UN is not to replace the government in Kyiv, but rather to help it in its activities.

EFE lvp-mos/ads/bp

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