I welcome this opportunity to address the Security Council on my recent visit to the Russian Federation and Ukraine, where I met with President Putin and President Zelenskyy on 26 and 28 April respectively.
As part of my regional visit, I also had discussions with President Erdoğan in Ankara and President Duda in Rzeszów, Poland.
Throughout my travels, I did not mince words.
I said the same thing in Moscow as I did in Kyiv – which is exactly what I have repeatedly expressed in New York.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations.
It must end for the sake of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the entire world.
I visited Moscow and Kyiv with a clear understanding of the realities on the ground.
I entered an active war zone in Ukraine with no immediate possibility of a national ceasefire and a full-scale ongoing attack on the east of the country.
Before the visit, the Ukrainian government issued an appeal to the United Nations and to me personally – expressed publicly by the Deputy Prime Minister – regarding the dire plight of civilians in the devastated city of Mariupol and specifically the Azovstal plant.
In my meeting with President Putin, I therefore stressed the imperative of enabling humanitarian access and evacuations from besieged areas, including first and foremost, Mariupol.
I strongly urged the opening of a safe and effective humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to reach safety from the Azovstal plant.
A short time later, I received confirmation of an agreement in principle.
We immediately followed up with intense preparatory work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) along with Russian and Ukrainian authorities.
Our objective was to initially enable the safe evacuation of those civilians from the Azovstal plant and later the rest of the city, in any direction they choose, and to deliver humanitarian aid.
I am pleased to report on some measure of success.
Together, the United Nations and the ICRC are leading a humanitarian operation of great complexity – both politically, and in terms of security.
It began on 29 April and has required enormous coordination and advocacy with the Russian Federation and Ukrainian authorities.
So far, two safe passage convoys have been successfully completed.
In the first, concluded on 3 May, 101 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal plant along with 59 more from a neighbouring area.
In the second operation, completed last night, more than 320 civilians were evacuated from the city of Mariupol and surrounding areas.
A third operation is underway – but it is our policy not to speak about the details of any of them before they are completed to avoid undermining possible success.
It is good to know that even in these times of hyper-communications, silent diplomacy is still possible and is sometimes the only effective way to produce results.
So far, in total, nearly 500 civilians found long-awaited relief, after living under relentless shelling and scarce availability of water, food, and sanitation.
The evacuees have shared moving tales with UN staff. Mothers, children and frail grandparents spoke of their trauma. Some were in urgent need of medical attention.
I hope that the continued coordination with Moscow and Kyiv will lead to more humanitarian pauses to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting and aid to reach those in critical need.
We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes.
Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths will brief you today in greater detail on the latest efforts in Mariupol and additional steps.
High Commissioner Bachelet will brief on reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, possible war crimes and the need for accountability.
As I discussed yesterday with President Zelenskyy, the UN will continue to scale up humanitarian operations, save lives and reduce suffering.
My meetings with both leaders also focused on the crucial issue of global food security.
And, indeed, the worldwide implications of this war were in full view in my subsequent travels to West Africa.
In Senegal, Niger and Nigeria, I heard direct testimony from leaders and civil society on how the war is unleashing a food security crisis.
We need quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy in open markets, by lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to those who need them, and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility.
But let me be clear: a meaningful solution to global food insecurity requires reintegrating Ukraine’s agricultural production and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets, despite the war.
I will do my best to help facilitate a dialogue to help make this a reality.
At the same time, the war in Ukraine – in all its dimensions -- is setting in motion a crisis that is also devastating global energy markets, disrupting financial systems and exacerbating extreme vulnerabilities for the developing world.
That is precisely why I established the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, to mobilize UN agencies, multilateral development banks and other international institutions to help countries face these challenges.
We were particularly engaged in making proposals at the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank.
The war on Ukraine is senseless in its scope, ruthless in its dimensions and limitless in its potential for global harm.
The cycle of death, destruction, dislocation and disruption must stop.
It is high time to unite and end this war.