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UN chief calls for ceasefire in Ukraine ‘as soon as possible’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) welcomes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for talks in Moscow, Russia, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by AP)

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a ceasefire in war-torn Ukraine "as soon as possible" as the Russian military offensive in the former Soviet republic lingers for more than 60 days.

Guterres made the plea at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Tuesday, saying conditions for a ceasefire in Ukraine should be created as soon as possible.

"We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution," the UN chief told Lavrov.

Guterres made the remark in his first visit to Moscow since Russia launched a "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, and was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin after speaking with Lavrov.

"I know that we have... different interpretations about what's happening in Ukraine," he said.  "That does not limit the possibility to have a very serious dialog on how best we can work to minimize the suffering of people."

Guterres also told the Russian foreign minister that he was ready to fully mobilize the international organization's resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

"Thousands of civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and many have evacuated," Guterres said, adding, "The UN is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol."

Speaking about reports of possible war crimes in Ukraine, Guterres said he was concerned about the issue and that they required an independent investigation.

Lavrov, for his part, said Russia was committed to a diplomatic solution via talks on Ukraine, stressing that Moscow was ready to cooperate with the United Nations to help civilians in the former Soviet country.

"Our goals are primarily to protect the civilian population and here we are ready to cooperate with our colleagues from the UN to alleviate the plight of the civilian population," Lavrov added.

Guterres, who is scheduled to travel from Moscow to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, has accused Russia of violating the UN Charter by sending troops into Ukraine and has repeatedly demanded a ceasefire to stop the conflict.

The military offensive was announced on February 24. The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow. Russia says it will halt the operation instantly if Kiev meets Moscow's list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.


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