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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Full transcript of Secretary-General's press encounter at The Kremlin

Moscow, Russian Federation, 20 March 2014

Thank you for this opportunity of meeting you to explain some of what I have discussed with President Putin today.

I havevisited Russia many times, and I have been discussing global issues with Russian leadership on many, many occasions.  But this time is very different. I am here with a very 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, as you know very well, I had a very good luncheon meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

During our discussions, 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 and is one of the most important partners to the United Nations and he has been an international leader.  He 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.  As I have said from the beginning of this crisis, 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 language as an official language in Ukraine, and other positive developments.

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 in the eastern and south-eastern part of the country.

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

It is clear that we are at a crossroad. I will continue to fulfil my duty as the 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 for your attention, and I’ll be happy to take some questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what did President Vladimir Putin respond to your concerns and you proposals? And which message will you deliver to Kyiv, after your talks with Vladimir Putin?

SG: I am not in the position to disclose all of what President said.  What I can tell you is that I expressed my very serious, grave concerns about the current situation where tension is going [up].  Political emotions have been hardened between important countries, particularly Russia as a member of the Security Council, a Permanent Member, and the European Union and the United States.  They should really resolve this issue peacefully.  First and foremost, the most important way is for Russia and Ukraine [to] sit down together and engage to work in a constructive dialogue.  And of course we reviewed the whole situation.  We discussed how the United Nations can help, and how countries actors can work together.

You have heard in the past most recently what President Putin has been saying publically and all these issues were raised.  And we discussed how we can address all these concerns.  There are some legitimate concerns which Russia and President Putin had, particularly in terms of human rights protection of those Russian language-speaking people and Russian minorities.

I told them that the best way would be to deploy the United Nations and OSCE human rights monitors team.  As you know, the UN human rights monitoring team has already been deployed.

Q: Two questions. What is your position on the Crimea referendum?  Have you talked to President Putin about how decisions [inaudible] in Crimea and its results?  And the second question is whether you have any concerns about how the standoff over Ukraine between Russia and the West, the US especially, will undermine any other [inaudible] in other regions such as Syria or Iran considering the solutions in those crises.  Thank you very much.

SG: As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have been expressing my disappointment and deep concerns about the situation which has been evolving over this referendum.  But I am here, more importantly, to address all these situations, a very deteriorating situation evolving all this situation in Ukraine, and situation which has been ensuing after the referendum.  I have really urged President Putin it is important to prevent any unintended incident which may aggravate the situation in uncontrollable way.  This is of more concern as the Secretary-General of the UN.

For your second question, this is exactly what I… [interrupted by interpretation]
Unfortunately, the situation in Ukraine is taking up the whole attention of the world.  I reminded President Putin that the longer this situation is not resolved peacefully, [the more] I am concerned that very important countries in the world – like the Russian Federation, the United States, and European Union – [with] their focus and their political tensions may not be able to address other issues.

We need full cooperation and concerted efforts to address the tragedies in Syria.  There are very serious security concerns in the Central African Republic, and many other areas.  And there are also very important development issues for humanity.  These are what I expect as the Secretary-General of the United Nations the world leaders should address.  It would be crucially important this Ukrainian situation should be resolved harmoniously as soon as possible.

Thank you.