U.N. chief speaks with Russia, Ukraine, urges intense diplomacy

2 minute read

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures as he attends a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that he is deeply worried about the heightened tensions over Ukraine and "increased speculation" about a military conflict, urging world leaders to intensify diplomacy to calm the situation.

"We simply cannot accept even the possibility of such a disastrous confrontation," he told reporters after having lunch with U.N. Security Council ambassadors.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday he had heard that Wednesday could be the day of a Russian invasion. Russia suggested it was ready to keep talking to the West to try to defuse the security crisis, while the United States said Moscow was adding to its military capabilities. read more

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"The time is now to defuse tensions and deescalate actions on the ground. There is no place for incendiary rhetoric. Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them," said Guterres.

Earlier on Monday, Guterres spoke separately with the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine and he told reporters he would remain "fully engaged in the hours and days to come."

Guterres stressed that the U.N. Charter requires all member states to "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

"Abandoning diplomacy for confrontation is not a step over a line, it is a dive over a cliff," Guterres said. "In short, my appeal is this: Do not fail the cause of peace."

The United Nations has no plans to evacuate or relocate out of Ukraine any of its more than 1,600 staff - of which 220 are foreign staff and more than 1,400 are Ukrainian - U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alistair Bell

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