Tuesday, August 16

UN urges Putin to allow civilian evacuation from Mariupol

UN Secretary General António Guterres with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Moscow. / EFE/Video: EP

Guterres offers to evaluate, together with Moscow and kyiv, a formula that facilitates the exit of the thousand citizens confined in the underground of the Azovstal metallurgical company

The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, was received this Tuesday in the Kremlin by the President, Vladimir Putin, and they mainly talked about the war in Ukraine. They did so at the same five meter long table already used with other world leaders. Guterres told him that “it is urgent to resolve the issue of the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol”, in whose basements, according to Moscow, there are some 2,000 Ukrainian combatants who are branded as “neo-Nazis” and a thousand civilians, according to kyiv.

Guterres assured Putin that “the UN is ready to make an assessment – of how to carry out the evacuations – together with Russia and Ukraine in two or three days.” Putin responded that in Moscow “we hear reports of civilians in Azovstal, but, if that is the case, then the Ukrainian Army should release them. Otherwise, they are terrorists who act like Daesh.”

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Previously, soldiers from the ultranationalist Ukrainian Azov regiment, considered extremist in Russia, stressed that no one is kidnapping civilians, but they refuse to leave the steel mill “because they fear being bombed during the evacuation.”

The Russian president assured the UN Secretary General on Tuesday that 140,000 people have already been evacuated from Mariupol and “they can go anywhere, we are not holding them, we are providing them with assistance and support,” a statement not shared by the Ukrainian leaders and in in particular the deputy prime minister, Irina Vereshuk, who has denounced the forced evacuation of many refugees to Russia and the installation of “filtration camps”.

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Vereshuk has also deplored that all attempts to get civilians out of Azovstal are failing day by day. The minister now proposes that the evacuation be done in the presence of United Nations observers.

Shortly before, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, assured in a press conference in the company of Guterres that “our main objective is to protect the civilian population. We are ready to cooperate with the UN to alleviate the suffering of civilians.”

Guterres arrived in Russia on Tuesday from Turkey, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The UN secretary general is also scheduled to meet this Thursday in kyiv with Volodímir Zelensky, who protested the fact that Guterres has passed through the Russian capital before the Ukrainian one.

In his opinion, “it is simply wrong to go to Russia first and then to Ukraine. It doesn’t make sense », he stressed on Saturday during a press conference. “The war is in Ukraine, there are no bodies on the streets of Moscow. It would be logical to go to Ukraine first and see people, see the consequences of the occupation,” Zelensky said.


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