Interview with Ukrainian Foreign Minister: kyiv wants the UN to request the evacuation of Mariupol

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Foreign Ministry in Kyiv, Monday, April 25, 2022. (Francisco Seco/AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday urged the UN chief to pressure Russia for an evacuation from the beleaguered port of Mariupol, calling it something the world body is capable of achieving.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview that he feared that while traveling to Moscow on Tuesday before heading to Kyiv, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres might fall into a “trap” of the Kremlin during the war.

“Many other foreign officials have been tricked into visiting Moscow and playing just to show the supremacy of Russian diplomacy and how great they are and how they dictate to the world how to behave,” he said.

Guterres “should focus mainly on one issue: the evacuation of Mariupol,” Kuleba said, referring to the seaside town where around 100,000 people are trapped while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters resist Russian forces in a steelworks where hundreds of civilians are also taking shelter.

“It’s really something that the UN is capable of doing. And if he shows political will, character and integrity, I hope that will allow us to take a step forward,” he said. he declared.

In New York, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Guterres would bring many initiatives and suggestions, adding: “I don’t want to go into too much detail at this point about what kind of proposals he would like to see. aura,” calling it a “quite awkward moment.”

As for getting to Moscow before Kyiv, Haq said the itinerary had been worked out with both parties and there was “no particular significance to him visiting one country before the other… . I don’t think anyone can say that he’s, like you said, flattering one side about it.”

Kuleba spoke a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the highest-level US visit to the capital since the invasion of Russia on February 24.

They told Zelenskyy that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military funding and had approved a $165 million ammunition sale.

Kuleba welcomed the visit and called them representatives of “the country that has done more than any other country in the world” for Ukraine.

Asked if the new announcements go far enough, Kuleba said that “as long as Russian soldiers set foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing will be enough.”

“We appreciate everything that has been done, including by the United States,” Kuleba said. “We understand that for some what has been done is already a revolution, but that is not enough as long as the war continues.

“It’s not because Ukrainians are greedy, it’s not because we want to seize the opportunity and get as much as we want. No, it’s because we have to win this war,” he said. he declared.

Kuleba stressed the need for the West to quickly supply the weapons Ukraine needs to win the war and prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from going “deeper into Europe”.

“You know, every gun conversation starts with us saying ‘we need this’. And the initial response is ‘we don’t think you need this exactly. … Let’s think about it. “It takes time for the partners to think, but the problem is that the war continues here,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we get what we need, and then we start getting enough of it. But time has been wasted. That’s the main issue that needs to be addressed, and we’ve been very open with our US counterparts in particular and also with other countries on this. Start doing things quickly.

Although Ukraine and Russia have had talks on ending the war since its inception, Kuleba said he believed anything less than talks between Zelenskyy and Putin would bring little resolution.

Regarding his Russian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kuleba said: “I don’t think he is ready for a serious conversation.”

He added that he did not think Russia was ready to find “solutions at the negotiating table”.

“But if I see that they change their attitude and are ready to seriously seek mutually acceptable solutions, I will overcome my disgust and sit down with him and talk,” Kuleba said.

“The sooner President Putin agrees to meet President Zelenskyy, the more likely it will be that the time for the end of the war will draw near,” he added.

“I don’t give a 100% guarantee, but I have confidence in my president. I understand that he is ready for this conversation and that he knows how to negotiate. The more President Putin slips away from this meeting, the more he is ( more) likely that he will focus entirely on the war storyline,” Kuleba said.

He reiterated Zelenskyy’s position that an escalation in Mariupol would ruin the chances of negotiating with Russia.

“We sent a very clear message: if you want to kill these people or if you want to take them prisoner and humiliate them, that will be it. That will be the red line,” he said. “But it’s not enough just to keep things as they are. It’s really important to get them all out, to save them.”

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer in New York and journalist Inna Varenytsia in Kyiv contributed.