UN chief heading back to Ukraine for meeting with Zelensky

Antonio Guterres making third visit to Kyiv since war began to discuss Black Sea grain deal ‘and other pertinent issues’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres leave a news conference during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Illustrative: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres leave a news conference during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

UNITED NATIONS — UN chief Antonio Guterres was traveling to Ukraine Tuesday to meet in Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his third trip since Russia’s full-scale invasion, his spokesman said.

“The Secretary-General has just arrived in Poland on his way to Ukraine,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Guterres was due to arrive in Kyiv later Tuesday before meeting with Zelensky Wednesday morning “to discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (grain export scheme) in all its aspects, as well as other pertinent issues,” the spokesman said.

Guterres is due to depart Ukraine on Wednesday and be back at United Nations headquarters in New York the following day.

No further details were given on the visit, the UN chief’s third after trips to Ukraine in April and August last year in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022.

At a UN Security Council meeting held on the anniversary of the start of the war, Guterres slammed the invasion as a “blatant violation” of the UN Charter and international law.

Ukrainian soldiers ride an infantry fighting vehicle along a road not far from Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on March 5, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

“It has unleashed widespread death, destruction, and displacement,” he told the 15-member council, which includes permanent member Russia, saying life was “a living hell for the people of Ukraine.”

Guterres has emphasized the human toll of the war, saying more than eight million Ukrainians have fled to other parts of Europe, and another 5.4 million are internally displaced.

Half of Ukrainian children have been forced from their homes, and face higher risks of violence, abuse, and exploitation, he told the Security Council last month.

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in late February to demand Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

But the Security Council meeting on the anniversary was largely symbolic.

The UN’s most powerful body has met 40 times over the past year on the Ukraine war but has achieved little binding action due to Russia’s wielding of its veto power.

Over the past year, Guterres has regularly offered to act as a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow should the two sides want to start a dialogue.

A person walks past a grain storage terminal at the Odesa Sea Port, in Odesa, Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

During his first visit to Ukraine after Russia invaded, Guterres called war “an absurdity in (the) 21st century.”

That trip, during which he also met with Zelensky, was marred by a Russian airstrike on Kyiv that left a journalist dead. The visit followed talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Guterres’s trip in August focused on unblocking grain exports.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered by the United Nations with Turkey last July and has helped reduce spiraling food prices that contributed to hunger in the developing world. The deal is set to expire this month.

Kyiv has seen a string of high-profile visits from Western leaders in the past year.

President Joe Biden of the United States, a key Ukraine backer, made the journey last month.

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