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Ukraine: Russian large-scale strikes are ‘unacceptable escalation’, says Guterres

Damaged buildings in Irpin, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Anton Kulakowskiy
Damaged buildings in Irpin, Ukraine.

Ukraine: Russian large-scale strikes are ‘unacceptable escalation’, says Guterres

Peace and Security

The UN chief António Guterres said that large-scale strikes by the Russian military on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and other locations on Monday, were deeply shocking and represented “another unacceptable escalation” of the war.

The strikes which have reportedly caused widespread damage to civilian areas and led to dozens of deaths and injuries, showed that “as always”, civilians were paying the highest price for Russia’s invasion of 24 February, the statement released by the UN Spokesperson added.

Speaking earlier in the day in Geneva, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi reported that Kyiv, Dnipro, Lviv, Zaporizhzhia, Chernihiv, Odesa were among those hit in the latest uptick in violence, which he described as “horrifying strikes”.

This was “another day of anguish” for Ukrainian people, the High Commissioner for Refugees said. 

Millions still homeless

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Mr. Grandi also noted that that the situation across the war-torn country remains deeply concerning. “At least 6.2 million people are internally displaced and many more need humanitarian support,” he told UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting.

With winter fast approaching and “millions of Ukrainians, especially the aged and disabled…counting on all of us”, the UN refugee agency head cautioned that there were limits to what humanitarians can do.

“We must be realistic in our expectations,” he said. “This requires an ‘all hands on deck’ approach and I appeal to those with expertise and resources to redouble efforts in support of the Government’s winterization plans.”

EU praised

Outside Ukraine, the UNHCR chief noted that people continue to flee their homes because of the war, crossing the border into neighbouring countries.

The European Union deserved praise for deciding to issue temporary protection permits to enable “millions of Ukrainians to find safety immediately and go where they had support networks, without putting pressure on asylum systems”, he maintained.

In one fell swoop, this single EU policy decision had “debunked so many myths” about the supposed dangers of opening countries’ borders to people in need of international protection, Mr. Grandi insisted.

German lesson

“Wir schaffen das (We can do it),” he said, reprising the phrase made famous by Angela Merkel in 2015, when the former German Chancellor decided to open the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Highlighting the global ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Grandi noted that for the first time in his tenure, this was also having a negative impact on donations for UNHCR’s vital work.

“If we do not receive at least additional $700m especially for our most underfunded operations between now and the end of this year, we will be forced to make severe cuts with negative, dramatic consequences for refugees and host communities,” he warned.