UN calls for safe aid delivery to Ukraine combat zones
"Civilians in places like Mariupol, Kharkiv, Melitopol and elsewhere desperately need aid, especially life-saving medical supplies," undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs Martin Griffiths told an emergency meeting on the disaster sparked by Russia's invasion.
The meeting came with Ukraine and Russia in a third round of talks to create "humanitarian corridors" from pummeled cities, as the civilian toll from the assault mounts.
The negotiations are focusing on giving civilians evacuation routes from besieged towns, but Russia said its expectations from the talks were "not fulfilled."
Griffith urged all sides to ensure that the general population and civilian homes and infrastructure are safeguarded during military operations in Ukraine.
"This includes allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose," he said.
Ukraine has rejected a Russian proposal for humanitarian corridors from the cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy, as many of the routes led straight into Russia or its ally Belarus.
"All civilians, whether they stay or leave, must be respected and protected," Griffiths said.
The UN also urgently needs a system of "constant communication" with all sides, he said, as well as "assurances to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid."
"A humanitarian notification system can support delivery of aid at the scale needed," he added.
Griffith said the UN had sent a team to Moscow, which had a "first technical meeting" at the Russian defense ministry.
The goal is to "work on better humanitarian civil-military coordination that can allow us to scale up" UN operations, he added.
A senior UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials also hoped to avoid any "blunder" and to ensure that humanitarian convoys were not targeted by Russian attacks.
To date, the UN has had no involvement in the establishment of humanitarian corridors.