United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths is calling for localized cease-fires in war-torn Ukraine to allow humanitarian aid into areas under siege and to allow trapped civilians to leave.
Griffiths this week discussed a possible humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Griffiths, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stopped in Moscow Monday on his way to Ukraine.
He did not obtain a commitment for a cease-fire, but U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said Friday that Griffiths views the meeting as only a first step in what is likely to be a long process. Meanwhile, he said Griffiths considers it of utmost importance to get the warring parties to agree to localized cease-fires.
“It is a top priority of that is to get silencing of the guns in those cities with Mariupol being the worst-affected,” he said. “Those cities where civilians are trapped, to allow them to get to safety voluntarily, to a place of their choosing and to allow aid to get in.”
Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Mariupol have been under siege since Russia invaded Ukraine more than six weeks ago. They have been forced to hide in underground bunkers while their city was being turned into rubble by Russian strikes.
Laerke said during his visit to Ukraine, Griffiths witnessed first-hand the scenes of death and destruction in the towns of Bucha and Irpin on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv. He said Griffiths, who saw a mass grave and dozens of destroyed building blocks in Bucha, described the sights as horrifying and called for an investigation into the atrocities allegedly committed by Russian forces.
Russian troops have failed to win control of the capital, Kyiv, and have retreated. They have shifted their focus toward capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Laerke said U.N. officials hope the situation of Mariupol will not be repeated as fighting moves toward Luhansk and Donetsk.
“People are still hunkered down in basements in Luhansk and Donetsk,” he said. “We have in our planning convoys to go there, I understand, already next week. If everything, again—whether that happens or not depends on the security situation. But it will be ready to go there if we can get there.”
Laerke said Griffiths is very worried about what might happen in the Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine. Since leaving Ukraine, Griffiths has told media he is not optimistic about a cease-fire.