With the war in Ukraine showing no signs of letting up, countries must increase efforts to prevent further escalation and end the fighting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told Foreign Ministers meeting in the Security Council on Thursday.
The conflict, now in its seventh month, has also sparked a global food, energy and finance crisis that is pushing more people into extreme poverty and hunger, and growing fears of potential nuclear disaster.
“As I have said from the start, this senseless war has unlimited potential to do terrible harm – in Ukraine, and around the world,” the UN chief recalled.
“There is only one way to end the suffering in Ukraine – and that is by ending the war.”
The Secretary-General described yesterday’s news that more than 250 prisoners of war were exchanged between Ukraine and Russia as a welcome development.
“I commend the efforts of both parties and hope that they will build on this with further exchanges aiming at an ‘all for all’ formula,” he said, thanking Türkiye and Saudi Arabia for their role in securing the agreement.
‘Unspeakable suffering and devastation’
The meeting was held on the margins of the annual debate in the UN General Assembly and brought together Foreign Ministers from countries serving on the 15-member Council, Ukraine, the European Union, and other nations.
Mr. Guterres said the war has caused “unspeakable suffering and devastation” in Ukraine, and latest developments – including the potential for nuclear catastrophe – will only lead to “an endless cycle of horror and bloodshed.”
Thousands of civilians have been killed or injured, hundreds of them children, while some 14 million people have been forced to flee.
“Every day, an average of five children are killed or injured. Almost every child in Ukraine has been scarred by the nightmare of war, from violence to family separation,” he said.
‘Catalogue of cruelty’
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has also documented reports of “a catalogue of cruelty”, including summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment against civilians and prisoners of war.
Latest accounts of burial sites in the city of Izyum are “extremely disturbing”, he added.
A Fact-Finding Mission into the deadly blast at a detention facility in Olenivka in July has been established, and members are ready to deploy “as soon as all necessary assurances are received”.
Responding to needs
Meanwhile, the UN continues to work to alleviate the suffering, including through the Secretary-General’s direct engagement with the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents.
The Organization and aid partners have so far delivered humanitarian aid to nearly 13 million people.
With support from Türkiye, the UN also brokered a landmark deal in July to resume food and fertilizer exports from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.
Since then, more than 4.3 million metric tonnes of food have been transported to nearly 30 countries. This includes supplies for World Food Programme (WFP) operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen.
“It is vital that these food shipments continue and increase, so commodity markets further stabilize,” he said.
The Council also heard from Karim Khan, Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which investigates genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine just weeks after the war began. Staff are continuing their forensic work and have maintained a presence in the country since May.
“Through this work, a picture will emerge. And the picture that I’ve seen so far is troubling indeed,” said Mr. Khan.
“I have been to Ukraine three times, and one has seen a variety of destruction, of suffering and harm that fortifies my determination, and my previous finding, that there are reasonable grounds to believe the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed.”