United Nations — After failing to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt his war in Ukraine by sending an emissary, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was headed on Monday to meet Putin in person. The U.N. chief is to arrive Tuesday in Moscow after first visiting Ankara, Turkey, where the government has been leading the push for a ceasefire.
Guterres is scheduled to then travel from Moscow to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has blasted Guterres’ decision to visit Moscow first as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities continues taking a devastating toll on civilians.
“It is simply wrong to go first to Russia and then to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy told reporters in Kyiv on Saturday. “There is no justice and no logic in this order.”
“The war is in Ukraine, there are no bodies in the streets of Moscow. It would be logical to go first to Ukraine, to see the people there, the consequences of the occupation,” he said.
The deputy head of Zelenskyy’s office, Igor Zhovkva, said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that the Secretary-General was “not really” authorized to speak on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
The merits of Guterres’ itinerary will likely be judged on Putin’s response to the Secretary-General’s request for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.
“The Secretary-General said that at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine,” his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York ahead of the trip.
On his way to Moscow, Guterres will first visit Turkey and meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He travels to Kyiv on Thursday to meet Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
The U.N. chief will be in Kyiv three days after the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who came promising hundreds of millions of dollars in additional military aid.
Blinken said Monday that he had spoken with Guterres and that he understood the U.N. chief would deliver a “very strong message” to Putin on the need to end the war and to implement an immediate ceasefire and open corridors to allow aid in and civilians out of besieged cities.
Ahead of Guterres’ visit to Ankara, Ukraine’s president said he “had an important phone conversation with Erdogan in which he stressed the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.”
Turkish media said Sunday that Erdogan had reiterated his country’s support for negotiations to end the war and said Turkey would welcome a “guarantor” position in any peace agreement.