Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press encounter at The Kremlin

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Moscow (Russian Federation), 20 March 2014

Thank you for the opportunity of meeting with you today.

A visit to Russia at this time is taking place in a very sober atmosphere and I am here with a heavy heart.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations it is my responsibility and duty to do my utmost to promote international peace and security.

I am seriously concerned that developments in Ukraine and the increasing tensions between Ukraine and Russia pose grave risks to the countries themselves, the region and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I just concluded a very productive and constructive meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Before that, I also had a very good discussion with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

During our discussion, the President and I exchanged views on how we can work together to resolve the current crisis.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia is critical to the maintenance of international peace and security – nowhere more so than in this region.

President Putin has been one of the most important partners to the United Nations and he has been an international leader who has repeatedly called for international disputes to be solved within the framework of the United Nations Charter.

During our meeting, I have emphasized that all parties refrain from any hasty or provocative actions that could further exacerbate an already very tense and very volatile situation. Inflammatory rhetoric can lead to further tensions and possible miscalculations, as well as dangerous counter-reactions.

Intimidation by radical elements must be prevented at all costs.

I was profoundly concerned by the recent incident where Ukrainian military bases were taken over.

It is at moments like this in history that a small incident can quickly lead to a situation spiralling out of anyone’s control.

An honest and constructive dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow is essential.

I told President Putin that I understand his legitimate concerns related to the situation of the Russian minority in Ukraine. I have said from the beginning of this crisis that it is critical that the human rights of all people in Ukraine, especially minorities, must be respected and protected.

In this connection, I have noted the recent commitment by Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatsenuyk of Ukraine to reinstate Russian as an official language in Ukraine and other positive measures.

The best way to address concerns for the respect of human rights is for all concerned authorities to support and welcome the United Nations human rights monitors to give us an objective assessment as to what is happening on the ground. Some of those monitors are starting to deploy in Ukraine, including the eastern and south-eastern part of the country.

Tomorrow, I will continue my diplomatic mission by traveling to Kiev to meet with Acting President [Oleksandr] Turchynov and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, as well as other officials and civil society organizations.

It is clear that that we are at a crossroad. I will continue to fulfil my duty as Secretary-General of the United Nations and engage with all relevant parties. We must employ every possible diplomatic tool at our disposal to solve this crisis, which has grave political and economic ramifications.

The world is watching and history will judge us on how we assume our responsibilities and our actions as they relate to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter.

I will do whatever I can do to help restore good relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine – two brotherly countries and two founding members of the United Nations.

Thank you, and I will now take a few questions.