Russia has announced Tuesday it is 'ready to cooperate' with the United Nations in helping ensure the safety of civilians amid fighting in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in the UN chief's first visit to Moscow since the Russian invasion began, where he's also due to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The trip has been met with controversy given Guterres didn't go to Kiev first.
Russian FM Lavrov said in a post-meeting press conference: "We are interested in cooperating with our colleagues at the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross in terms of additional efforts to alleviate the sufferings and plight of civilians [in Ukraine]."
The statement described that a working group had been established at the urging of the UN, with cooperation from the Russian Defense Ministry [MoD], in order to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.
"Today, we discussed ways to boost our cooperation on this track. I think that following the Moscow talks, we will be able to outline such steps, which may be important in the current situation," Lavrov described.
And further according to TASS, "Lavrov emphasized that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had managed to send five humanitarian aid convoys to Ukraine along with the aid that was delivered there every day by the Russian Defense Ministry and Emergencies Ministry, as well as by various Russian public organizations."
Guterres at the same time emphasized that he's "extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialog, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible."
On Monday the MoD announced a ceasefire around the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where it's believed many Ukrainian civilians still remain holed up with possibly a couple thousand Azov fighters - all who are surrounded by Russian forces. Russia says it established the ceasefire to allow for the trapped civilians' safe exit. However, Kiev said there was no agreement for a ceasefire and rejected the Russian military's claims.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government is furious over the Guterres trip to Moscow, suggesting it's acknowledging Putin's legitimacy while overlooking war crimes. As The Guardian reports:
Guterres has faced criticism from Ukraine for not visiting Kyiv first and for failing to intervene decisively before Russia invaded on 24 February. He is also scheduled to meet the Russian foreign minster, Sergei Lavrov, before travelling to Ukraine.
“It is simply wrong to go first to Russia and then to Ukraine,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, told reporters in Kyiv on Saturday. “There is no justice and no logic in this order. The war is in Ukraine, there are no bodies in the streets of Moscow. It would be logical to go first to Ukraine, to see the people there, the consequences of the occupation.”
And in a separate statement the deputy head of Zelenskyy's office, Igor Zhovkva, had told Meet the Press on Sunday that the UN Secretary-General was "not really" authorized to speak or initiate any offers of agreements on behalf of the Ukrainian government.