By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -A third operation is under way to evacuate civilians from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and the besieged Azovstal steel plant, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday as Russia accused the West of waging an economic World War.
The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have so far helped nearly 500 civilians flee the area during two operations in the past week. At a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Guterres declined to give details on the new operation “to avoid undermining possible success.”
“I hope that the continued coordination with Moscow and Kyiv will lead to more humanitarian pauses to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting and aid to reach those in critical need,” he told the 15-member council. “We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes.”
Since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24 – in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” – the United States and western allies have hit back with tough sanctions.
“It is as if you were eagerly awaiting this moment to unleash repression against Russia,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council. “If we were to talk about World War, then without a doubt it is being waged at the economic level today.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, accused Russia of lying to the Security Council.
“Russia alone started this war and Russia alone can end it. Silence the guns, withdraw from Ukrainian territory, and embrace diplomacy,” she said.
Guterres has also warned that the war in Ukraine was putting even more pressure on the developing world.
He told the Security Council he was ready to facilitate talks on “reintegrating Ukraine’s agricultural production and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets, despite the war.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at United Nations; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Pullin)