UN focusing on evacuating Ukrainian civilians amid war horrors

By Mario Villar

United Nations, May 5 (EFE).- With no possibility of mediating to halt the war in Ukraine, the United Nations has been focusing on evacuating civilians from the areas of the greatest violence, mainly the eastern coastal city of Mariupol, even as the international body continues to denounce the horrors being inflicted upon the Ukrainian people amid the Russian invasion.

The UN confirmed on Thursday that it has launched another mission to extract people trapped by combat in Mariupol and in the Azovstal steelmaking plant, the last redoubt of the Ukrainian resistance in that strategic area and where Kyiv says that the Russian siege is continuing despite the Kremlin promising a three-day ceasefire to allow evacuations.

The operation is being conducted along with the International Red Cross (CICR), just like the other two such evacuations earlier this week, which have resulted in almost 500 people being brought out of the area, including at least 100 from the steelmaking facility itself.

A “third operation” is under way, but it is UN policy not to discuss the details before such operations conclude so as not to reduce the chances of success, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the 15-member Security Council.

“I hope that the continued coordination with Moscow and Kyiv will lead to more humanitarian pauses to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting and aid to reach those in critical need,” Guterres said. “We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes.”

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that the mission is being staged to get more civilians out of Mariupol, including the Azovstal facility.

The evacuation of civilians from Mariupol is, for now, the only visible result of the visits made last week to Moscow and Kyiv by Guterres, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

On Thursday, before the Security Council, Guterres made clear that he visited the region well aware of the “realities on the ground.”

The UN chief said that he went to an active war zone in Ukraine without any immediate possibility of a nationwide ceasefire and with a large-scale Russian attack in progress in the eastern part of that country.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the UN has seen itself relegated to a limited role in the East European country, given that Russia’s veto power as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council has been used by the Kremlin to block any action and because Moscow does not view Guterres as impartial and, thus, is not willing to accept him as a mediator in any peace negotiations.

So, the international organization has focused on the humanitarian angle, coordinating insofar as is possible providing aid to the Ukrainian population and evacuating civilians from the immediate areas of fighting.

Griffiths said Thursday that there are more than 1,400 UN workers deployed in Ukraine and that some form of assistance has been provided to 4.1 million people, with special attention being paid to those who have been internally displaced by the conflict.

In addition, the UN and its partners are repairing basic infrastructure in certain areas to which Ukrainians are returning after Russian troops withdrew and providing cash to the public so that they can buy food and other necessities to survive.

Meanwhile, the organization has continued to denounce the consequences of the war, above all via the high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet.

The former Chilean president said that the UN continues to document more and more violations of international law in this conflict, with many cases falling into the category of war crimes.

Among other things, Bachelet denounced indiscriminate attacks on urban areas, summary executions, kidnappings, illegal deportations of Ukrainian civilians to Russia and Belarus and possible rapes of women being committed by Russian forces.

She also said that proof is showing up of torture and executions of prisoners of war committed by both sides in the conflict.

Bachelet proposed a one-day ceasefire, a measure that she said would save dozens of lives, would allow thousands of civilians to flee combat zones and would show that the horrors in Ukraine can be stopped.

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, the latest meeting of the Security Council only served to allow the various countries to reiterate their stances, with Russia responding harshly to Western criticism and accusing the West of launching a “world war” in the economic area against it.

Related Articles

Back to top button