Kyiv, Ukraine

28 April 2022

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine

President Zelenskyy, thank you very much for your warm welcome in these most difficult times.   

Today, Ukraine is an epicenter of unbearable heartache and pain.   

I witnessed that very vividly today around Kyiv: the senseless loss of life, the massive destruction, the unacceptable violations of human rights and the laws of war.     

It is vital that the International Criminal Court and other UN mechanisms conduct their work so that there can be real accountability.  

The position of the United Nations is clear.   

As I said in Moscow, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations.    

I am here to focus on ways on how the UN can expand support for the people of Ukraine, saving lives, reducing suffering and helping find the path of peace.   

I want the Ukrainian people to know that the world sees you, hears you, and is in awe of your resilience and resolve.   

I also know that words of solidarity are not enough.   

I am here to zero in on needs on the ground and scale up operations.   

Let me be very clear.  The Security Council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war.  This is a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger.  

But the men and women of the United Nations are working every day for the people of Ukraine, side by side with so many brave Ukrainian organizations.   

I salute the more than 1,400 staff of the UN — the vast majority of whom are Ukrainian nationals. They are on the ground in 9 operational hubs and 30 locations.   

Many have been here from day one — and we have sent in additional personnel since then to serve the Ukrainian people.  They are engaged in an enormously complicated mission under difficult conditions.     

This is one of the fastest scale-up operations we have ever undertaken, and we are very much aware that not everything is perfect.  Whatever we can provide pales in comparison to the needs.   

I am here to pledge that we will boost our efforts across the board – coordinating with the Ukrainian Government every step of the way.   

Until now, we have provided life-saving humanitarian aid to 3.4 million people inside Ukraine – and we are aiming to more than double that number to 8.7 million by the end of August. Some recent estimates show a worst-case scenario in which some 25 million people could be in need of humanitarian assistance by the end of this year. We hope this scenario does not materialize but we are obliged to plan for it.   

We are expanding our cash assistance – distributing $100 million per month, reaching 1.3 million people by May and covering 2 million by August.   

This will be done in very close coordination with the Ukrainian Government.   

This is not a typical humanitarian UN operation in a developing country, with lots of problems of governance and lots of difficulties. Ukraine is a country with a government and with a system of support to its citizens, and so the role of the UN is not replace that system, it is to support the Government to support the people of Ukraine.  

Our food aid has reached 2.3 million people, but we want to help 4 million by May and 6 million by June, and the plans will be implemented.   

With more than 12 million Ukrainians who have fled their homes, we are supporting host countries that have generously received over 5 million refugees. But, more important, we are increasing our capacity to meet the needs of the 7.7 million that have been displaced inside the country based on the recent survey by the International Organization for Migration.   

The World Health Organization is delivering medical supplies for trauma and emergency care for more than seven million people. We are also stepping up our vital efforts to extend urgent health care, emergency shelter, water and sanitation and to protect children and end gender-based violence, all in very close contact and very close coordination with the Ukrainian Government.  

And we are advancing the work of accountability and justice by monitoring and reporting on human rights violations wherever they are detected.   

Ladies and gentlemen of the press,   

All this work is essential, but it doesn’t address the root cause of all this human suffering: the war itself.   

This war must end, and peace must established in line the charter of the United Nations and international law.   

Many leaders have made many good efforts to stop the fighting, though these efforts, so far, have not succeeded.     

I am here to say to you, Mr. President, and to the people of Ukraine: We will not give up.   

As we keep pushing for a full-scale ceasefire, we will also keep striving for immediate practical steps to save lives and reduce human suffering.   

Effective humanitarian corridors.  Local cessations of hostilities.  Safe passage for civilian and supply routes.   

Today, the people of Mariupol are in desperate need for just such an approach.    

Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis.    

Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance.    

Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility.   

They need an escape route out of the apocalypse.   

During my visit to Moscow, President Putin agreed, in principle, to the involvement of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.   

Today, President Zelenskyy and I had the opportunity to address this issue.   

As we speak, there are in intense discussions to move forward on this proposal to make it a reality.   

Finally, let me say that, in many ways, we are at ground zero for the world we need to build – a world of respect for international law, the UN Charter and the power of multilateralism, a world that protects civilians, a world that advances human rights, a world where leaders live up to the values that they have promised to uphold.   

That, too, is a struggle – but it is one that we must win for the sake of every country, community and person around the world.   

Thank you.   

Question: And my question to the Secretary-General. You have been to Moscow recently and spoke to the biggest war criminal of the 21st century, the head of the biggest gas station of planet Earth, Mr. Putin. You looked into his eyes and now, he told you obviously something, and now, you are here in Ukraine and you have seen what he has done around Kyiv and Ukraine. Do you see any chance, any practical chances, that the world can stop him, especially with his continuous threats to use the nuclear weapons? Thank you.  

Secretary-General:  I have to say that what I said in Moscow, what I said here, and what I say in New York is exactly the same. Probably, you have heard my press conference with [Russian Foreign] Minister [Sergey] Lavrov – the speech was very similar to this one. You have, eventually, seen the part that the Russian television has given, the conversation between President Putin and myself, and you heard me saying, to President Putin, the same things I said myself.  

So, it has been coherent with the defense of the values of the UN, and the values of the UN Charter, and one of the values of the UN and the UN Charter is that the territorial integrity of countries must be respected. This is fundamental from the point of view of international law. And I hope that, as in everything else in life, law will prevail.  

Question: Mr. General Secretary, could you please tell us a little bit more about the general principle that Mr. Putin agreed on when you met him in Moscow a few days ago? And what will the UN do if the Russian Federation is violating these general principles the President agreed on. Thank you very much.  

Secretary-General: May I go first, please? Madam, what do you want? Do you want the people to be rescued, or do you want me to say something that will be an obstacle to that task? At the present moment, I can only tell you, we are doing everything we can to make it happen. I am not going to enter into any comments that would undermine that possibility because my first and only priority is the people that suffer and the people that must be rescued.  

Question: [inaudible]  

Secretary-General: That's exactly what you want, is for me to say things that would not facilitate the work that we are doing at the present moment, which is to guarantee that that happens. I cannot admit that it will not happen. If it will not happen, I will take the right decisions at the right moment.  

Question: And about a timeframe, you can say anything about the timeframe?  

Secretary-General: Again, I am working with only one objective, not to shine in the media. I'm being very boring to the media on purpose because the only way to ensure the rescue of people is to be boring to the media, because we have enough difficulties by themselves.  

Question:  I have a question to Secretary-General. First, you told us today that the UN Security Council has not fulfilled the functions as some would expect of that. Then how would you need to reform the United Nations organization in order for that organization to be effective in settling the conflicts and not to follow the paths of the League of Nations?  

Secretary-General: As I said, the UN is not only the Security Council – the UN is also the General Assembly, and the General Assembly was clear in this regard. And the UN is all the men and women that are working in different parts of the world to support people that are victims of war, that are victims of conflict.  

I have not the power to reform the Security Council. I have no illusions about the possibility to do it immediately, but I will do everything I can through making the UN as effective as possible in situations like these to at least compensate for a failure that I cannot solve.  

And you can be sure about total commitment to support Ukrainian people in this difficulty and to our permanent voice asking for the end of this war, and the end of this war, in respect for international law and in respect for the Charter of the United Nations.