United Nations, March 18 : India has said it was ready to “engage” in diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine where the UN has raised “grave fears” for millions of people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “emphasized that there is no option but the path of dialogue and diplomacy”, India’s Permanent Representative, T.S. Tirumurti, said on Thursday.
“We stand ready to continue to engage on these objectives in the Security Council, as well as with the parties (to the conflict), in the coming days,” he said.
Modi has spoken to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and urged them to hold direct talks.
Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said that while there were “grave fears about the fate of millions of residents” who were “facing intensifying attacks”, there were some positive developments in talks between Russia and Ukraine, but they have not led to a ceasefire.
She said, “This week, there were positive signals reported regarding the ongoing direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives. We welcome all such engagements.”
“However, we note that these signals of support are not translated into the cessation of hostilities that is so desperately needed,” she added.
After the negotiators, Vladimir Medinsky of Russia and Mykhailo Podolyak of Ukraine, held a round of video talks, Zelentsky said on Wednesday, “I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov introduced a note of optimism in the 22-day war, saying they were “close to an agreement”.
Tirumurti said, “We reiterate our call for immediate cessation of hostilities across Ukraine.”
Without naming Russia, which launched the war, he said, “We continue to underline the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”
“The humanitarian situation has worsened, particularly in the conflict zones,” he said.
He said that humanitarian assistance should not be politicised and be guided by the principles of “humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence”.
To contribute to alleviating the humanitarian crisis, Tirumurti said that India has already sent over 90 tonnes of relief supplies to Ukraine and its neighbours since March 1, he said.
“We are in the process of identifying other such requirements and sending further supplies in the coming days,” he said.
DiCarlo warned that “dangerous ripple effects are felt around the world” from the war because of threats to the supply of food from Ukraine, the world’s breadbasket.
Between February 24 and March 15, she said, 726 people have been killed, 52 of them children, and most of the casualties resulted from the use of explosive weapons with wide impact in residential areas.
“The actual number is likely much higher,” she said.
There should be a thorough investigation into the attacks on civilians and those responsible should be held to account, she said.
“Life-saving medicine we need now is peace,” World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said outlining the health catastrophe in Ukraine.
He said that WHO has verified 43 attacks on health care facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured, including health workers.
“Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law – anytime, anywhere,” he said.
He said that UN convoys with humanitarian supplies have not been able to reach several areas.
US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that she had just met with Ukrainian civil society leaders who “reported terror – the terror that Russia is inflicting across Ukraine”, including the shooting of people standing in a bread line.
China’s Permanent Representative Zhang Jun said that “a chance for ceasefire” was emerging.
He said, “Sanctions will not solve problems, instead will create new problems” given the sluggish recovery and trigger a humanitarian crisis.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia acknowledged the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, but denied the accusations of Russia attacking places like medical facilities or a theatre sheltering people or a mosque.
“We note with regret that Ukraine has always was a pawn in the struggle against Russia and remains such a pawn still,” he said.
He said that Russia will not press for a vote on a resolution it had introduced to counter a resolution proposed by France and Mexico on facilitating humanitarian assistance in Ukraine.
Moscow was calling for an emergency session of the Security Council on Friday on what he said were bio-weapon labs in Ukraine, he said.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed @arulouis)