Remarks by the Secretary-General during the press availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov (26 April 2022) – Ukraine
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I came to Moscow as a messenger of peace.
My goal and my agenda are strictly related to saving lives and reducing suffering.
I had a very frank discussion with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and it is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine.
According to the Russian Federation, this is a special military operation with the announced objectives.
According to the UN, in accordance with the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a violation of its territorial integrity and against the Charter of the United Nations.
But I have a deep conviction that the sooner we end this war, the better – for the people of Ukraine, for the people of the Russian Federation and for those far beyond.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for ceasefires to protect civilians and facilitate political dialogue to reach a solution.
So far this has not been possible.
Today, across the Donbass, a fierce battle is underway with huge death and destruction.
Many civilians are killed and hundreds of thousands of people are in mortal danger, trapped by the conflict.
I am concerned about repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes, and they require an independent investigation for effective accountability.
We urgently need truly safe and effective humanitarian corridors that are respected by all to evacuate civilians and deliver much-needed assistance.
To this end, I have proposed the creation of a humanitarian contact group, bringing together the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations, to seek opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to ensure that they are truly effective.
Simultaneously, we recognize that we face a crisis within a crisis in Mariupol.
Thousands of civilians are in desperate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance and, for many, evacuation.
The United Nations stands ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol.
My proposal is for coordinated work by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Ukrainian and Russian forces to enable the safe evacuation of civilians wishing to leave, both inside the Azovstal plant than in the city, in any direction, and to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid.
It’s not just about what’s happening in Ukraine, because we’re seeing shock waves all over the world.
The dramatic acceleration in the rise in food and energy prices, which has already taken place in the past year, is causing enormous suffering for hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. This adds to the shock of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and unequal access to resources for recovery, which particularly penalizes developing countries around the world.
So the sooner peace is established, the better – for the good of Ukraine, Russia and the world.
And it is very important, even in this difficult time, to keep the values of multilateralism alive.
We need a multipolar world, with multilateral institutions, and these multilateral institutions must respect the Charter of the United Nations and international law – and by the Charter of the United Nations and international law, recognizing the full equality between States, they will hopefully be an instrument that will allow us, once again, to come together as humanity and to address the dramatic challenges we face, from climate change to epidemics and many others, and in which the only war we should have would be a war of those who put the planet at risk.
Question: I am Geeta Mohan from India Today. I have a question for each of the leaders, starting with the Secretary General of the United Nations. Mr. Guterres, there are allegations and counter-allegations regarding genocide, war crimes, human shields and also reports of the use of chemical weapons and biological weapons. You talked about contact groups and humanitarian corridors. You also talked about investigations. Will the United Nations consider independent investigations, create a team and an investigation team to examine the facts on the ground?
Secretary-General: Well, the UN Secretariat doesn’t have the power to make inquiries like that. We have the International Criminal Court. We have the various mechanisms that exist in the human rights system, many commissions of inquiry. I do not intend to promote an investigation myself. I do not have the power to do so, but I think it is very important to have independent investigations in order to have full credibility and full accountability.
[Following a reply by Foreign Minister Lavrov]
If I may, as the Secretariat has been mentioned, I would like to say that the Secretariat fully respects and complies with all General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. And today, if I regret anything, it is that the UN was not authorized to be part of the Normandy format in order to follow the Minsk agreement and be able to form a very clear-cut opinion on the failure of the Minsk agreement. On the other hand, I would like to say that I understand that the Russian Federation has many grievances, but the Charter of the United Nations provides for a large number of mechanisms in which grievances can be dealt with; and mainly through recourse to the International Court of Justice or other mechanisms, if all the others provided for in the Charter fail. There is one thing which is true and obvious, and which no argument can change: we do not have Ukrainian troops on the territory of the Russian Federation, but we have Russian troops on the territory of [Ukraine].
Question [translated from Russian]: Valentina Schwartz from Lenta.ru. I have a question for both speakers. Sergei Viktorovich: The UN General Assembly is expected to vote today on Liechtenstein’s draft resolution on the right of veto, which proposes to convene the General Assembly whenever one of the five permanent members of the Security Council will veto a resolution. What does Russia think of the Security Council reform proposals and initiatives that would override the right of veto in the event of a vote in the General Assembly? And do you think, Mr. Guterres, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, that the institution of the right of veto should be reformed? Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: If I can interpret those who so many years ago created the Charter, I believe that the reason for the veto was to avoid the situation in which a confrontation between the members of the permanent members group could lead to another war. And so, the veto was a kind of element introduced to avoid this kind of danger. It is also true that over time the right of veto has probably been used too often. As in many circumstances, it is used without a country’s vital interests existing.
And so, I am very much in favor of a moderate use of the veto, having no illusions about the possibility of changing it. I don’t think it will be possible to have a majority, such a majority in the General Assembly with all five members agreeing to change that. But I also believe that it is important to enlarge the Security Council and to have a more equitable representation. Especially the countries [in] Africa.
Africa is a double victim of colonialism. First, because it suffered colonialism itself. And secondly, because many countries gained their independence only when the above international institutions had already been created. Thus, Africa is under-represented in decision-making processes in most multilateral institutions. And so, I believe that stronger representation of developing countries in many areas, from the Bretton Woods institutions to the Security Council, would be an important reform.
Question [translated from Russian]: Hello, Sergei Viktorovich! Hello, Mr. Guterres. Zukhra Ishmukhametova, Sputnik. I have questions for both speakers. Now my questions to Mr. Guterres. How can you comment on the illegal expropriation of Russian diplomatic assets in the United States, as well as Washington’s abuse of its host status when a number of diplomats, including Russians, are often denied visas for UN events? What measures and actions is the UN Secretariat taking to encourage the United States to fulfill its obligations? My second question on Afghanistan. You encouraged the United States to unblock their [inaudible] in order to avoid a humanitarian economic collapse in the country. What measures have been taken in this direction?
Secretary-General: Let’s start with Afghanistan. We decided from the start to actively engage with the Taliban and we are carrying out a massive humanitarian operation in Afghanistan, but we recognize that humanitarian aid is not enough. In the absence of cash, in the absence of cash in the Afghan economy, the collapse of the economy can have devastating consequences for the Afghan people. Thus, we claim that the international community must create the conditions for cash to be injected into the Afghan economy. We made ourselves. The UN is airlifting banknotes to Afghanistan, we have already brought 500 million US dollars. We have put pressure on the World Bank to disburse the amounts foreseen in relation to Afghanistan. And we are working with the Central Bank, the US Treasury, to remove the obstacles that still exist in terms of the need to release the available money. We hope this will be true for all countries that have frozen these assets.
We naturally believe that we have to do everything for the good of the Afghan people, but we also engage very seriously with the Taliban when it comes to inclusiveness of government and inclusiveness between men and women, but also inclusiveness for the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazar, as has been said, to be fully included in the political process in Afghanistan. On the need for Afghanistan not to be a base for terrorist activities of any kind outside its territory and, of course, also to be able to defeat terrorism inside the territory, and on the need to respect a certain number of fundamental rights. And here there are two issues that concern me a great deal. One is the possibility for girls to be educated, especially in secondary and university. There was a negative decision recently, I hope it will be overcome quickly. And secondly, the right of women to work and exercise their professions in the country as is the case for UN personnel, female UN personnel who are indeed authorized to work at this time.
On the other hand, we believe it is very important that all Member States, including the Russian Federation, receive normal treatment of their visa requirements. It is essential that all countries participate fully in the procedures of the United Nations. And we will keep a very strong position with the host country to ensure that we move quickly in this direction.