UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will ramp up his mediation efforts to end the Russia-Ukraine war by going to Moscow for a direct meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 26, the UN announced on Friday.
Guterres’ associate spokesperson Eri Kaneko said that he will “be received by Putin” and “will have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov”.
“He (Guterres) wants to discuss with the leadership what steps can be taken right now in order to silence the guns to help the people and in order to allow the people who need to get out and have safe passage,” Kaneko said.
Guterres had written to both Russia and Ukraine, asking to visit their countries in an effort to end the conflict.
Kaneko said that the UN is still working with Ukraine on scheduling his visit there.
Guterres cancelled a planned trip to Nigeria next week to visit Russia. His visit to Moscow comes as Russia has intensified its assault in the face of stiff resistance by Ukraine.
His call for an Easter ceasefire this weekend has been rejected by Moscow. (Some of the Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Easter on Sunday as they follow a separate calendar from the Western churches which observed the feast last Sunday)
Kaneko said, “The Secretary-General is not so much disappointed that his own personal call was unheeded, but more that there has been no truce, that civilians cannot leave besieged areas and that the aid that the UN and our partners are ready to deliver to these besieged areas cannot go in.”
But she left open a window of optimism, saying: “We operate with the currency of hope.”
Guterres had appointed Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths as his mediator who had visited both Moscow and Kiev.
However, he tested positive for Covid-19 this week ahead of a scheduled trip to Turkey to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is hosting talks between Russia and Ukraine.
Kaneko said that Guterres hoped to further the discussions Griffiths and others have had.
Representatives of the two countries have been holding talks in Belarus, Turkey and online.
Russian news service Tass quoted Lavrov as saying on Friday that there was “slow progress in the Russia-Ukraine negotiations”.
The UN is deadlocked on the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of Moscow’s veto powers in the Security Council.
The General Assembly has condemned the invasion and demanded that Moscow end the conflict.
But unlike the Council, the Assembly is powerless to implement its decisions.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @arulouis)