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U.N. chief greeted by Putin's long table during controversial Moscow visit

“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,” Guterres told Putin

April 26, 2022 4:18pm

Updated: April 27, 2022 8:32am

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres flew to Moscow on Tuesday to begin a three-day trip to Russia and Ukraine, just one day after the Kremlin warned that the threat of a nuclear world war “should not be underestimated.”

Upon arriving at the Kremlin, the UN chief was met by the infamous long table used by Russian President Vladimir Putin when hosting world leaders and even his own ministers, Business Insider reported.

Although Putin initially praised the U.N. as an institution, he quickly moved to criticize actions taken by members aimed at challenging Russia and its illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian leader told Guterres he still hoped a “diplomatic outcome” could be reached in Ukraine, but warned that negotiations had been derailed by Ukrainian provocations in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb where Putin claims dozens of civilians were killed by Ukrainian forces in an attempt to make Russia look bad before the international community – a charge that runs contrary to accounts from witnesses and reporters on the ground.

Guterres, for his part, told the Russian leader that joint Russian and Ukrainian efforts to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians had largely failed – a charge Ukraine has often made while claiming that Russian armed forces regularly bomb such corridors and have previously used their own evacuation routes to forcibly move Ukrainians to Russia against their will.

The U.N. chief subsequently suggested that a “humanitarian contact group” – consisting of U.N., Russian and Ukrainian officials should instead be considered “so no one will have an excuse to sabotage those corridors.”

Later, focusing on the port city of Mariupol, Guterres told Putin that he hoped the UN could work with the Red Cross to help evacuate civilians, including those trapped in the city’s besieged steel plant – a suggestion which Putin allegedly agreed to “in principle.”

Following his meetings with both Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the U.N. chief told reporters that he held “a very frank discussion” with both men and that “it is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine.”

Since Russia first launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24, the U.N. has called the move an invasion that violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity and goes against the U.N. Charter.

“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,” Guterres added.

Nevertheless, the UN Security Council, where Russia is one of five permanent members with veto power, has failed to pass any resolutions condemning the war.

Guterres’ visit to Moscow has also caused outrage across the Western public spehere.

According Jean-Marc Rickli, head of Global and Emerging Risks at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, “this trip has started off on the wrong foot.”

“In such a polarized environment where disinformation is so facilitated by social media, anything Guterres will do or say might be weaponized from one side or the other of the conflict.”

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