No Ukraine humanitarian ceasefires soon, UN aid chief says

Humanitarian ceasefires between Ukrainian, Russian forces may be possible in a couple of weeks, Martin Griffiths says.

Humanitarian ceasefires between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Ukraine are not on the horizon, but may be possible in a couple of weeks, the UN aid chief has said.

Martin Griffiths made the comments Monday in a briefing to reporters at UN headquarters in New York on his attempts to arrange local ceasefires in Ukraine so that desperate civilians could be evacuated from embattled areas and to provide badly needed assistance.

Moscow’s invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has killed or wounded thousands. More than seven million people are estimated to be internally displaced in Ukraine and need help urgently, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Griffiths met senior officials in Moscow and Kyiv this month to discuss UN “aspirations” for humanitarian ceasefires and ways to improve a system to notify the sides of evacuation and humanitarian supply movements.

“Obviously, we have not yet got a humanitarian ceasefire in place on the Russian side,” he said. “I went into a lot of details on this and they continued to promise to get back to me on the details of those proposals.”

“Right now, if I could speak for the Russian authorities, they are not putting local ceasefires at the top of their agenda,” he said. “Ceasefires are not on the horizon right now. They may be in a couple of weeks. They may be a bit longer than that.”

Griffiths said he would travel to Turkey this week to discuss with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials the prospects of hosting humanitarian talks between Ukraine and Russia.

“Turkey has been able to present itself to both sides as a genuinely valuable and useful host for those talks,” he said.

UN aid officials are planning to dispatch a humanitarian convoy in the next couple of days into the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia-backed separatists declared a republic, and from there aid supplies would go to Luhansk, another separatist region, he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have urged people in the eastern Donbas area to move west to escape a large-scale Russian offensive to capture its composite regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.

They have also recently accused Russian forces of targeting evacuation infrastructure, including buses and a train station in Kramatorsk where more than 50 people were reportedly killed in Russian strikes.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged in a statement on social media Russian forces to allow for evacuations from the besieged and devastated port city of Mariupol, which Moscow’s forces claim to have brought under their control.

“Once again, we demand the opening of a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians, especially women and children, from Mariupol,” she wrote.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that if Russian forces kill Kyiv’s troops remaining to defend the city, then a fledgling negotiation process to end nearly two months of fighting would be ended.

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