UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27 (Alliance News): Secretary-General António Guterres has announced that the UN will launch an appeal to fund its humanitarian operations in Ukraine, amid reports of casualties and people fleeing their homes to seek safety as Russian military operations in the country escalate.
According to American media reports, Russian forces bombarded Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, again on Saturday night, after a day of pitched fights around the city. Most of the more than 150,000 Russian troops who had massed around Ukraine are now fighting in the country, U.S. officials said.
The Biden administration and key European allies announced on Saturday that they would remove certain Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, essentially barring them from international transactions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine tried to rally international support and said in a video that his country’s fighters had “withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks.”
Russian forces have killed at least 198 people, including three children, and 1,115 people, including 33 children, have been wounded, according to the Ukrainian National Guard, and a U.N. official said more than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees had fled.
At the United Nations, a readout issued by a UN spokesperson said that Guterres spoke by phone with President Zelensky on Saturday afternoon.
“The Secretary-General conveyed to the President the determination of the United Nations to enhance humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,” according to the readout.
It added that the UN chief had informed the President that the United Nations would launch on Tuesday an appeal to fund its humanitarian operations in Ukraine.
The Secretary-General’s phone call and the announcement of a humanitarian appeal follow his decision this past Thursday to release $20 million from the UN emergency relief fund, known as CERF, to meet urgent needs in Ukraine.
“We and our humanitarian partners are committed to staying and delivering, to support people in Ukraine in their time of need,” he told reporters at the time.
The UN chief struck a similar tone of determination speaking to reporters Friday evening after the Russian Federation vetoed a resolution tabled in the Security Council that would have denounced its attacks in Ukraine and called for the withdrawal of all Russian troops.
“Especially in a moment like this, it is important to remember that the UN is not just the chamber behind me. It is tens of thousands of women and men around the world… standing, delivering, extending a lifeline of hope,” the Secretary-General said, and stressed that “despite the growing operational challenges, the UN is scaling up the delivery of life-saving support.”
The Secretary-General also announced the appointment of Amin Awad as UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine to lead the coordination of all UN efforts, including its humanitarian response, on both sides of the contact line.
Also on Friday, Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) echoed the Secretary-General in stressing that UN humanitarians are committed to continue and expand its presence.
“We have not left. We are not leaving Ukraine,” he told reporters at UN Headquarters.
As people there are “bunkered down,” Griffiths said that the UN is scaling up its efforts to help meet the needs of those effected, “and we have been doing this for some weeks.”
Meanwhile, also on Saturday, Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed grave concern about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine.
“We have already seen reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety. Civilian lives and civilian infrastructure must be protected and safeguarded at all times, in line with international humanitarian law,” Grandi said in a statement, warning that the humanitarian consequences on civilian populations will be devastating.
Accordingly, he said that UNHCR had stepped up its operations and capacity in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. “We remain firmly committed to support all affected populations in Ukraine and countries in the region,” he added.