NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “unwinnable,” as he repeated his plea for the conflict to shift from the battlefield to the negotiating table.
“That is inevitable,” he said at the UN’s headquarters in New York. “The only question is how many more lives must be lost? How many more bombs must fall? How many Mariupols must be destroyed?
“How many Ukrainians and Russians will be killed before everyone realizes that this war has no winners — only losers? How many more people will have to die in Ukraine and how many people around the world will have to face hunger for this to stop?
“Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical.”
In the month since Russia invaded Ukraine “in violation of the UN Charter,” Guterres said, the world has witnessed appalling human suffering as the war intensifies and becomes more destructive and “unpredictable by the hour.” Civilians are being terrorized by “systematic bombardments” and the destruction of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and shelters, he added, and 10 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes.
“But the war is going nowhere fast,” Guterres said. The city of Mariupol has been under siege for more than two weeks and “relentlessly” attacked, he pointed out.
Foreign journalists have fled the city and heavy shelling has driven most of the civilians who remain there into hiding in their basements.
“For what?” he asked. “Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house. The only outcome to all this is more suffering, more destruction and more horror as far as the eye can see.”
He said Ukrainians are enduring “a living hell,” the reverberations of which can be felt worldwide in rising food and energy prices that threaten to cause a “global hunger crisis” at a time when developing countries are already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now they are also paying a heavy price as a result of this war,” Guterres said. Not all hope is lost, however, he added.
“From my outreach with various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are coming into view on several key issues,” he said. “There is enough on the table to cease hostilities — now — … and seriously negotiate — now.”
He again pleaded for the war to end, saying: “By any measure, by even the shrewdest calculation, it is time to stop the fighting now and give peace a chance. It is time to end this absurd war.”