UN official calls for localized ceasefire in Ukraine
United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths is calling for localized ceasefires in war-torn Ukraine to allow humanitarian aid to besieged areas and allow trapped civilians to leave.
Griffiths this week discussed a possible humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stopped by Moscow on Monday on his way to Ukraine.
He did not secure a commitment to a ceasefire, but UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said on Friday that Griffiths viewed the meeting as only a first step in what should be a long process. Meanwhile, he said Griffiths considered it of the utmost importance to get warring parties to agree to localized ceasefires.
“It is a top priority to silence the guns in these towns, with Mariupol being the most affected,” he said. “These towns where civilians are trapped, to allow them to voluntarily seek safety, in a place of their choosing and allow aid to enter.
Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents have been under siege since Russia invaded Ukraine more than six weeks ago. They were forced to hide in underground bunkers as their city was reduced to rubble by Russian strikes.
Laerke said during his visit to Ukraine, Griffiths witnessed firsthand the scenes of death and destruction in the towns of Bucha and Irpin on the outskirts of the capital kyiv. He said Griffiths, who saw a mass grave and dozens of destroyed building blocks at Bucha, called the sites horrific and called for an investigation into atrocities allegedly committed by Russian forces.
Russian troops failed to take control of the capital, kyiv, and retreated. They focused on capturing the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Laerke said UN officials are hopeful the Mariupol situation will not reoccur as fighting shifts to Luhansk and Donetsk.
“People are still entrenched in the basements of Luhansk and Donetsk,” he said. “We have in our planning convoys to go there, I believe, as early as next week. If anything, again whether or not that happens depends on the security situation. But he will be ready to go if we can make it happen.
Laerke said Griffiths was very worried about what might happen in the Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine. Since leaving Ukraine, Griffiths has told media he is not optimistic about a ceasefire.