United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned Russia’s military operations in Ukraine and appealed for peace in the region. He also announced $20 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to meet urgent needs in Ukraine.
“All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations,” he said, quoting the UN Charter.
António Guterres informed the reporters that UN staff are working on “both sides of the contact line,” providing life-saving humanitarian relief to people in need, “regardless of who or where they are”. “The protection of civilians must be priority number one,” he stressed.
Prior to the media briefing, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement on the military attack.
“Civilians in various parts of Ukraine were awoken by sounds of heavy bombardment and are terrified of further escalation, with many fleeing their homes,” she said. “This military action clearly violates international law and puts at risk countless civilian lives. It must be immediately halted.”
Reports have emerged of military strikes near major cities with significant populations, including Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Mariupol and the capital, Kyiv.
The UN human rights chief also warned of “an information war” underway.
“It is particularly crucial at this time that we continue to closely monitor and attempt to verify reports of human rights violations, including civilian casualties, damage to civilian objects, including critical infrastructure, and other impacts on human rights on the ground,” she upheld.
Other UN agencies like UNESCO, Unicef and World Food Programme (WFP) also called for “restraint from attacks on, or harm to, children, teachers, education personnel or schools, and for the right to education to be upheld”.
“UNICEF also calls on all parties to refrain from attacking essential infrastructure on which children depend – including water and sanitation systems, health facilities and schools,” added UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
WFP chief David Beasly pointed out that the military action is likely to cause economic deterioration around the world, especially for countries like Yemen, dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. “Prices will go up compounding an already terrible situation,” he lamented.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) drew attention to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, saying that “Ukraine has informed the IAEA that ‘unidentified armed forces’ have taken control of all facilities of the plant.
“It is of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.