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UN chief pushes for Ukraine corridors on Moscow visit

By AFP - Apr 26,2022 - Last updated at Apr 26,2022

This photograph taken from Tetianivka, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday, shows smoke rising on the horizon, believed to be from a shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP photo)

MOSCOW — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called during a visit to Russia Tuesday for Moscow and Kyiv to work together to set up aid and evacuation corridors in war-torn Ukraine.

"We urgently need humanitarian corridors that are truly safe and effective," he told a press conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

"To that end I have proposed the establishment of a humanitarian contact group bringing together the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors," he said.

Guterres also called for an independent investigation into "possible war crimes" in Ukraine.

"I am concerned about the repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes. And they require independent investigation for effective accountability," Guterres said.

Lavrov said Moscow was ready to cooperate with the United Nations to help civilians in Ukraine. 

"Our goals are primarily to protect the civilian population and here we are ready to cooperate with our colleagues from the UN to alleviate the plight of the civilian population," Lavrov said.

He said Russia was in favour of resolving the conflict in Ukraine with peace talks, but said it was "depressing" the way the Kyiv delegation and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky behaved. 

Nearly 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia launched its invasion two months ago, the UN said Tuesday, warning that three million more were expected to follow this year.

In total, 5,264,767 people have fled Ukraine as refugees since February 24, according to the latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

That marks an increase of 32,753 over Monday’s figure.

While the outflow has slowed significantly since March, UNHCR said Tuesday it now projects that three million more Ukrainians could become refugees by the end of the year.

UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the new projection of 8.3 million Ukrainian refugees was a planning figure, and that it was unclear when it would be reached amid a “highly dynamic” situation.

“This displacement has been on such an expansive scale, and the rapidity of this we haven’t seen in recent times,” she told reporters in Geneva.

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