UN says Russia-Ukraine peace deal unlikely

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The United Nations secretary-general struck an ominous tone on Wednesday when asked about his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the possibility of a peace deal with Ukraine.

“It was clear to us that, at this point, there are no immediate chances of a peace agreement or immediate chances of a global ceasefire,” António Guterres told reporters.

FILE – In this May 7, 2019, file photo, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is photographed during an interview at United Nations headquarters.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

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Guterres said the UN was instead focusing on humanitarian needs and coordinating evacuations with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross from devastated areas in Ukraine.

He said the UN was still working to ease channels between kyiv and Moscow to facilitate evacuations and humanitarian corridors in the war-torn nation.

The UN chief unequivocally condemned the illegal invasion of Moscow, saying its devastation is seeping beyond Ukraine’s borders.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing massive devastation, destruction and suffering in the country, causing the largest displacement in Europe since World War II and shocking the region and the world,” he told reporters. “This senseless war must end.”

Guterres met with Putin late last month to ask him to allow the safe evacuation of hundreds of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, from Mariupol, the site of some of the heaviest bombing since Russia’s invasion began in late february.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during their meeting at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 26, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during their meeting at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
(Vladimir Astapkovich, Sputnik, Kremlin swimming pool photo via AP)

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The UN chief seemed hopeless after the meeting. A Putin spokesman later said the Kremlin agreed “in principle” with the concept of humanitarian evacuations.

Although the remaining women, children and the elderly were eventually evacuated from the Azovstal plant two weeks later, it is unclear whether the civilian men were forced to stay and what will happen to the soldiers hiding in the plant’s tunnels.

Guterres appeared to gain no further insight into Putin’s plans in Ukraine after his visit to Moscow last month.

When asked what he thought Putin’s “end game” was, he scoffed, saying: “If I knew that, I would have divinatory abilities.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for talks in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, April 26.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for talks in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, April 26.
(Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

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“I hope nothing lasts forever. This war will not last forever,” Guterres said. “There will be a time when peace negotiations will be on the table, there will be a time when I hope that it will be possible to have, according to the UN Charter and international law, a solution to the problem.

“But one thing I can tell you: we will never give up,” he added.

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