Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, has appealed for a four-day truce during the Orthodox Holy Week to allow for civilian evacuations and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the UN chief noted that the Orthodox Easter is coming amid an intensive Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, making the need for a ceasefire all the more urgent.
“Humanitarian needs are dire. People do not have food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded or simply to live day-to-day,” Guterres said in New York.
“Inspired by the Holy Week, I urge all parties, and all champions of peace around the world, to join my Easter appeal.
He suggested the pause begin on Thursday, which is Holy Thursday for Orthodox Christians, and continue until Sunday when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter.
Most people in Ukraine are Orthodox Christian.
“Instead of a celebration of a new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody, and destructive,” he noted.
“The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead.”
Guterres said the goal of the four-day truce is to open “humanitarian corridors” so civilians can escape embattled areas and more humanitarian convoys can get in, particularly to Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol in the eastern region known as the Donbas – the focus of Russia’s current offensive – and Kherson in the south.
More than 4 million people in those areas, and 12 million nationwide, need food, water, medicine, or other assistance.