Moscow, 26 April 2022
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I came to Moscow as messenger of peace.
My objective and my agenda is strictly linked to save lives and to reduce suffering.
I had a very frank discussion with the Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and it is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine.
According to the Russian Federation, what is taking place is a special military operation with the objectives that were announced.
According to the UN, in line with the resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and against the Charter of the United Nations.
But it is my deep conviction that the sooner we end this war, the better – for the people of Ukraine, for the people of the Russian Federation, and those far beyond.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for ceasefires to protect civilians and to facilitate a political dialogue to reach a solution.
So far, that has not been possible.
Today, across the Donbas, a violent battle is underway with tremendous death and destruction.
Many civilians are being killed, and hundreds of thousands of people are in life-threatening conditions, trapped by the conflict.
I am concerned about the repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes, and they require independent investigation for effective accountability.
We urgently need humanitarian corridors that are truly safe and effective and that are respected by all to evacuate civilians and deliver much-needed assistance.
To that end, I have proposed the establishment of a Humanitarian Contact Group, bringing together the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations, to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective.
Simultaneously, we recognize that we face a crisis within a crisis in Mariupol.
Thousands of civilians are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and many, of evacuation.
The United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol.
My proposal is for a coordinated work of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Ukrainian and Russian Federation forces to enable the safe evacuation of those civilians who want to leave, both inside the Azovstal plant and in the city, in any direction they chose, and to deliver the humanitarian aid required.
This is not just about what is happening in Ukraine, as we are seeing shock waves around the world.
The dramatic acceleration of the increases of the prices for food and energy, that was already taking place in the last year, are causing enormous suffering to hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable people worldwide. This comes on top of the shock of the continued COVID-19 pandemic and uneven access to resources for recovery, that particularly penalize developing countries around the world.
So the sooner peace is established, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and for the world.
And it’s very important, even in this moment of difficulty, to keep alive the values of multilateralism.
We need a world that is multipolar, with multilateral institutions, and those multilateral institutions must abide by the UN Charter and by international law – and by the UN Charter and by international law, recognizing full equality among States, they hopefully will be an instrument that will allow us, once again, to come together as humankind and address the dramatic challenges we face, from climate change to epidemics and to many others, and in which the only war we should have would be a war of those that put the planet at risk.
Question: I am Geeta Mohan, from India Today. I have a question each for both the leadership, beginning with the United Nations Secretary-General. Mr. Guterres, there are allegations and counter-allegations regarding genocide, war crimes, human shields and also reports of chemical weapons and biological weapons being used. You spoke about contact group and humanitarian corridors. You also spoke about investigations. Will the United Nations look at independent investigations, creating a team and investigating team to look into the facts on the ground?
Secretary-General: Well, the UN Secretariat has not the power to do investigations of that kind. We have the International Criminal Court. We have the different mechanisms that exist in the human rights system, many commissions of inquiry. It is not my intention to promote an investigation myself. I have not the authority for it, but I think it’s 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 was mentioned, I’d like to say that the Secretariat entirely respects and abides by all resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council. And today, if I regret something is that the UN was not allowed to be part of the Normandy format to follow the Minsk Agreement and to be able to form a very clear-cut opinion about 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 UN Charter foresees a large number of mechanisms in which grievances can be addressed; and mainly with a recourse to the International Court of Justice or other mechanisms, if all the other ones foreseen in the Charter fail. There is one thing that is true and obvious, and that no arguments can change: We have not Ukrainian troops in the territory of the Russian Federation, but we have Russian troops in the territory of [Ukraine].
Question [translated from Russian]: Valentina Schwartz from Lenta.ru. I have a question for both speakers. Sergey Viktorovich: United Nations 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 vetoes a resolution. What does Russia think about the proposals to reform the Security Council and about initiatives that would involve overriding the veto if there were a vote in the General Assembly? And do you, Mr. Guterres, as UN Secretary-General, think the institution of the right of veto should be reformed? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: If I am able to interpret those that so many years ago created the Charter, I believe the reason of the veto was to avoid the situation in which a confrontation among the members of the group of Permanent Members might lead to another global war. And so, the veto was a kind of an element introduced to avoid this kind of danger. It is also true that as time went by, the veto has probably been used too many times. As in many circumstances, it’s used without vital interests of a country existing.
And so, I’m very much in favour of a moderate use of the veto, having no illusions about the possibility of changing it. I don’t think that it will be possible to have a majority, such majority in the General Assembly with the five members agreeing on changing that. But I also believe it’s important to enlarge the Security Council and to have a more equitable representation. Particularly the countries [in] Africa.
Africa is a double victim of colonialism. First of all, because it suffered colonialism itself. And second, because many of the countries only gained independence when the international institutions above already have been created. And so, Africa is underrepresented in decision-making processes, in most of the multilateral institutions. And so, I do believe that a 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]: Good afternoon, Sergey Viktorovitch! Good afternoon, Mr. Guterres. Zukhra Ishmukhametova, Sputnik. I have questions for both speakers. Now, my questions to Mr. Guterres. How can you comment on illegal expropriation of Russian diplomatic property in the US, as well as Washington’s abuse of its host status when a number of diplomats, including Russian ones, are frequently denied a visa for UN events? What steps and actions does the UN Secretariat take to engage the US in fulfilment of its obligations? My second question about Afghanistan. You encouraged the US to unblock its [inaudible] in order to avoid humanitarian economic collapse in the country. What steps have been taken in this direction?
Secretary-General: Starting off with Afghanistan. We have decided since the very beginning to engage actively with the Taliban and we have a massive humanitarian operation in Afghanistan, but we recognize that humanitarian aid is not enough. In the absence of cash, in the absence of liquidity in the economy of Afghanistan, the collapse of the economy can have devastating consequences for the people of Afghanistan. So, we have been claiming that the international community needs to create the conditions for cash to be injected in the Afghan economy. We have done ourselves. The UN is bringing by plane banknotes to Afghanistan, we have already brought 500 million US dollars. We have been pushing the World Bank in order for the World Bank to disburse amounts that are foreseen in relation to Afghanistan. And we are working together with the Central Bank, the American Treasury, to remove the obstacles that still exist in relation to the need to unfreeze the money that is available. We hope that this will be true for all the countries that have these assets frozen.
We believe naturally that we need to do everything for the good of the people in Afghanistan, but we are also engaging with the Taliban very seriously in relation to the inclusivity of government and inclusivity between men and women, but also inclusivity in order for Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazar, as it was said, to be fully included in the political process in Afghanistan. On the need for Afghanistan not to be a base for any kind of terrorist activities, outside its territory and, of course, also to be able to defeat terrorism inside the territory, and on the need to respect a number of fundamental rights. And here there are two questions that are of great concern to me. One is the possibility of girls to be in schools, especially in secondary school and in university. There was a negative decision recently, I hope it will be overcome quickly. And second, the right of women to work and to exercise their professions in the country as it is happening to the UN staff, female UN staff that is indeed allowed to work at the present moment.
On the other hand, we believe that it is very important that all Member States, including the Russian Federation, have a normal treatment of their visa requirements. It is essential to have the full participation of all countries in UN procedures. And we will be keeping a very strong position with the host country in order to guarantee that we move swiftly in that direction.