United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Russia to end its “absurd war” in Ukraine, warning that the conflict is “going nowhere, fast” and that the Ukrainian people are “enduring a living hell”.
“Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical,” Guterres told reporters in New York on Tuesday.
Russia is bombarding the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol into the “ashes of a dead land”, its local council said, describing two more huge bombs that fell on the city that has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks.
“Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house,” Guterres said. “This war is unwinnable. Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table.”
“It is time to end this absurd war,” he said.
Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” on February 24, saying it aimed to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies have accused Moscow of attacking civilians indiscriminately. Moscow denies targeting civilians.
Guterres said some 10 million Ukrainians have fled from their homes and warned the reverberations of war were being felt globally “with skyrocketing food, energy and fertiliser prices threatening to spiral into a global hunger crisis”.
“There is enough on the table to cease hostilities – now … and seriously negotiate – now,” Guterres said.
A month of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials have so far failed to stop or even slow a war that has forced some 3.5 million Ukrainians to leave not only their homes, but to flee the country.
The UN chief’s comments came as Ukraine’s president reiterated his readiness to discuss a commitment from Ukraine not to seek NATO membership in exchange for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv will be ready to discuss the status of Crimea and the eastern Donbas region, parts of which are held by Russian-backed separatists, after a ceasefire and steps towards providing security guarantees.
Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and recognised the eastern Ukrainian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas days before launching the invasion.
The question of the territory is a large sticking point for both countries. Russia has also called for Ukraine’s neutrality, which is likely to be a central part of any negotiations to end the war.
In the past 24 hours, Moscow has stepped up military activity, according to a senior United States defence official. It has so far launched attacks on various cities including Kharkiv and the besieged port city of Mariupol, while its troops edge closer to the heart of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.