Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) attends a meeting with UN chief Antonio Guterres in Moscow. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one on Tuesday for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United Nations said they agreed on arranging evacuations from a besieged steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Russian leader and UN chief discussed "proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol.”
Guterres, Putin also agreed in principle, he said, that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel complex where Ukrainian defenders in the southeastern city are making a dogged stand.
Discussions will be held with the UN humanitarian office and the Russian Defence Ministry on the evacuation, Dujarric said.
Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow on Tuesday. Reuters
During the meeting, which the UN said lasted nearly two hours, Putin and Guterres sat at opposite ends of a long white table in a room with gold curtains bordered in red. No one else was at the table.
Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine's Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
Separately, Roman Starovoyt, the governor of Russia's Kursk province, which also borders Ukraine, said that explosions had been heard in Kursk city early on Wednesday which were most likely the sounds of air defence systems firing.
Antonio Guterres listens to Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. AP
In Voronezh, the administrative centre of another province adjacent to Ukraine, Russia's TASS news agency cited an emergencies ministry official as saying that two blasts had been heard and the authorities were investigating.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a "special operation" to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground in the plant, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.
Meanwhile, a series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire around the same time.
Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said a fire at the ammunition depot near the Staraya Nelidovka village had been extinguished and no civilians have been injured.
Guterres will head to Moscow on Tuesday and meet Putin as well as having a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Eri Kaneko, Guterres' associate spokesperson, told a news briefing in New York on Friday.
Training his fire on Putin as he addressed the General Assembly, US President Joe Biden accused him of "shamelessly" violating the UN Charter with a war aimed at "extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state."
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack and denies using the grain programme's security corridor for military purposes. The United Nations said no grain ships were using the Black Sea route on Saturday when Russia said its vessels in Crimea were attacked.
"Now, of course, those who live in Kherson should be removed from the zone of the most dangerous actions, because the civilian population should not suffer," Putin told pro-Kremlin activists as he marked Russia's Day of National Unity.
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"We believe that the only solution to the ongoing conflict is to give the Palestinians their full right to self-determine and establish their state on the 1967 borders," Lana Nusseibeh told the ICJ.