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Rights group asks UN chief to prioritize Mariupol civilians amid trip to Moscow

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A rights group is pressing for United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres to prioritize the safety of civilians in Mariupol as the U.N. chief is scheduled to visit Moscow and Kyiv this week.   

“After surviving two months of terror, hiding in basements as their city was turned to char and rubble, civilians still in Mariupol urgently need assistance and safe evacuation routes,” Ida Sawyer, a Human Rights Watch crisis and conflict director, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Secretary-General Guterres and other international leaders should press top Russian officials to ensure safe passage to Ukraine-controlled territory,” Sawyer added.

The rights group’s pleas come after Guterres spoke in Moscow of the plight of civilians in Mariupol. 

“Thousands of civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance and many of evacuation,” he said of the hard-hit Ukrainian city. “The United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol.”   

But Guterres also spoke of his conversations with Russian leadership, suggesting a peaceful end to the conflict was not likely in the near term. 

“I had a very frank discussion with the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and it is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine,” the secretary-general said, noting that to Russians the attack is “a special military operation” but that to the U.N. it is “a violation of its territorial integrity and against the Charter of the United Nations.”     

The secretary-general’s visit to Moscow has been criticized by a top adviser for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Igor Zhovkva.

“We did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” Zhovka said on Sunday. “I really doubt if those peace talks organized by secretary-general of the U.N. would end up with any result.”

Guterres is also scheduled to visit Kyiv during his official trip. A U.N. spokesperson has said that there is “no significance” to his stop in Moscow first.

Other global leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have also traveled to Kyiv amid the invasion which began on Feb. 24. 

Tags Antonio Guterres Antonio Guterres Human Rights Watch russia ukraine Ukraine-Russia conflict

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