Guterres sees Ukraine devastation
Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) visits residential neighbourhoods of Irpin, in Ukraine's Kyiv Oblast, on April 28. “This horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately always true: civilians always pay the highest price. Innocent civilians were living in these buildings. They were paying the highest price for a war for which they had not contributed at all. And this is something everybody should remember, everywhere in the world. Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” said the Secretary-General in Irpin. Photo: ESKINDER DEBEBE/UN/LUSA

Guterres sees Ukraine devastation

“The war is an absurdity in the 21st century”

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations and former prime minister of Portugal, seems to have learned much but achieved little during the visits this week to Moscow and Kyiv.

He spent the hours before his Thursday afternoon meeting with the Ukraine prime minister, seeing for himself evidence of the atrocities committed by Russian forces in towns on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Tightly surrounded by security guards, he spoke emotionally.

“When I see those destroyed buildings, I imagine my family in one of those homes now destroyed and black. I see my granddaughters running in panic,” said Guterres.

He continued: “The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil and when you see these situations, our heart, of course, stays with the victims. Our condolences to their families. There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”

The secretary-general also visited a scene of the alleged Russian killings of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. “Here you well know how important it is for a thorough investigation and accountability,” said Guterres in the town of Bucha near the capital. He added that he fully supported the International Criminal Court and the need for investigations into war and humanitarian crimes. Russia has denied targeting civilians or civilian buildings.

Astonishingly, a Russian missile slammed into central Kyiv close to Guterres and those accompanying him. A UN spokesman expressed shock but said all were safe. It was reportedly the boldest attack on the Ukrainian capital since Putin’s forces retreated from Kyiv weeks ago.

In a joint news conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday evening, Guterres admitted the UN Security Council had failed to prevent or end the war in Ukraine. He said this was “a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger.”

But Guterres reaffirmed his commitment to help save those barricaded in Mariupol, which Putin on Tuesday had agreed with him “in principle”.


Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: