UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week to make an urgent, face-to-face plea for peace in Ukraine, the world body said Friday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Guterres is due to meet Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that Putin will also host the U.N. chief.
U.N. spokesperson Eri Kaneko said discussions about a similar Guterres visit to Ukraine are under way.
“He hopes to talk about what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine urgently,” she said, adding that Guterres aims to discuss “steps that can be taken right now” to stop the fighting and help people get to safety.
Guterres asked Tuesday to meet with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in their respective capitals.
Guterres has urged Russia to stop its attack since it began two months ago, in what he called “the saddest moment”in his five years in the U.N.’s top job. He appealed Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” in fightingleading up to Sunday’s Orthodox Easter holiday.
“Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace,” he implored.
Guterres sent the U.N.’s top humanitarian officialto Moscow and Kyiv earlier this month to explore the possibilities of a cease-fire.
But the secretary-general had faced questions about whether he himself should travel to press for peace. In a recent letter, former U.N. officials called on him to step up his personal, public involvement.
Whatever overtures may have been made privately, the now-planned trip “is a visible symbol of what the United Nations is supposed to be standing for, which is peace and security,” one of the letter-writers, former U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, said by phone Friday.
“I don’t think any of us should have exaggerated expectations about what the secretary-general will be able to accomplish, but he has significant moral power,” said Feltman, now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “It’s important that the secretary-general have these conversations.”
Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went to Moscow and Kyivin March 2014 to try to foster talks and diplomacy as Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.