assistance director Ukraine: Following high-level negotiations in Moscow and Kyiv that highlighted how far apart the two sides are, the UN’s humanitarian chief said Thursday that he is not confident about negotiating a cease-fire to halt the violence in Ukraine.
After concluding up negotiations with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other top officials, Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths provided the pessimistic assessment to AP in Kiev.
This came after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this week in Moscow.
“I don’t think it’ll be simple,” he remarked, “since the two sides, as I now know, have very little trust in each other.”
He then added, “I’m not optimistic.”
Griffiths was deployed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Russian and Ukrainian capitals to investigate the possibilities of arranging a cease-fire that would allow badly needed aid into Ukraine and maybe create the framework for peace talks.
Griffiths implied that the goal was still a long way off.
“It goes without saying that we all want it to happen. But, as you know — you’re here — that won’t happen right away,” he explained.
On February 24, Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, which lasted slightly over six weeks. Millions of people have been displaced within the country, and more than 4 million Ukrainians have sought refuge abroad as a result of the fighting.
More than 1,400 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN’s human rights office, though the true number is almost certainly higher.
Representatives from the two countries have met on a number of occasions, both via video link and in person, but the violence has continued.
Short of a full cease-fire, Griffiths said he’s looking for methods to boost both sides’ confidence and focus on lesser targets like establishing local cease-fires and humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee the fighting.
“This conflict is not going to end tomorrow,” he declared. “Where we’re getting closer is getting both parties’ understanding of what a local cease-fire would entail.” There are numerous regions of Ukraine where we may reach local cease-fires tomorrow that are geographically and temporally specified.”
He highlighted that relief supplies had begun to flow to some of the country’s more difficult-to-reach areas.
Russian troops have pulled out of portions of Ukraine, notably around Kyiv, ahead of what many anticipate will be a more aggressive drive in the country’s east.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, repeated his country’s request for more weapons from NATO countries on Thursday, citing atrocities that have surfaced in the town of Bucha and other regions where Russian troops have recently withdrawn.
Local cease-fires, according to Griffiths, could nevertheless lead to advances even in regions where fighting isn’t happening because they require forces to remain stationary and so unable to regroup elsewhere.
Aid organizations have had difficulty getting goods to individuals in need.
Members of a Red Cross convoy have been barred from reaching Mariupol, which is under siege, in order to assist in the evacuation of a civilian convoy. They were jailed at one point during their trip, and they eventually joined a group of 1,000 individuals who had made their own way out of Mariupol to a city further west.
On March 2 and March 24, an overwhelming majority of the 193-member UN General Assembly urged for an immediate halt to the conflict in Ukraine.
Griffiths stated that he plans to travel to Turkey next week for more talks aimed at establishing a cease-fire agreement. That country, which has a Black Sea coast with both Russia and Ukraine, maintains diplomatic relations with both and has positioned itself as a mediator in peace talks.
He also plans to visit Moscow again, describing his most recent visit as a “first round of talks.”
“Look, I’m used to the idea of achieving a cease-fire, which is what I’m supposed to do,” he remarked.