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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a four-day "humanitarian pause" to provide aid to Ukraine on April 19, 2022. (Photo: U.N. Spokesperson/Twitter)

UN Chief Calls for Four-Day 'Humanitarian Pause' in Ukraine

"The four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine."

Jessica Corbett

As Russia ramped up its war on Ukraine with a focus on capturing the Donbas region, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday called for a four-day "humanitarian pause" later this week, leading up to when Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter.

"Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance."

"Today I am calling for a four-day Holy Week humanitarian pause beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, April 24th, to allow for the opening of a series of humanitarian corridors," Guterres said in front of Non-Violence, the knotted gun statue outside U.N. headquarters in New York City.

"The humanitarian pause would provide the necessary conditions to meet two crucial imperatives," he explained. "First, safe passage of all civilians willing to leave the areas of current and expected confrontation, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross."

"Second, beyond humanitarian operations already taking place, a pause will allow for the safe delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk," Guterres added. The latter two cities are part of regions that are self-declared "people's republics" recognized by Russia as independent from Ukraine.

Guterres told reporters Tuesday that the United Nations is ready to send aid convoys in the event of a pause and that "humanitarian needs are dire. People do not have food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded or simply to live day-to-day."

"More than 12 million people need humanitarian assistance in Ukraine today," he said. "Of those, more than one-third are in Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk. We anticipate that this figure will increase to 15.7 million—that's about 40% of all Ukrainians still left in the country."

Russia's invasion has displaced millions of Ukrainians—with some fleeing to neighboring nations and others relocating within Ukraine. While the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 2,104 deaths and 2,862 injuries, the true figures are believed to be far higher.

"Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection, and hope," said Guterres. "It is meant to be a moment of unity. But this year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message."

"The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody, and destructive," he continued. "The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead. This cannot be allowed to happen. Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance."

Urging "Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk," the U.N. chief declared that "the four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine."

"I urge all parties—and all champions of peace around the world—to join my Easter appeal," he added. "Save lives. Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace."

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