UN chief warns of ‘wider war’ as Ukraine conflict intensifies

Antonio Guterres says prospects of ‘further escalation and bloodshed’ in the Russia-Ukraine war keep growing.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses reporters during a news conference in New York, United States, Wednesday, June 8, 2022.
'We need to wake up - and get to work,' United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says [File: Mary Altaffer/AP]

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned the world that it may be heading towards a “wider war” as the risk of a further escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict rises.

In a speech to the 193-member UN General Assembly on Monday presenting his 2023 priorities, Guterres decried the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the war was “inflicting untold suffering on the Ukrainian people with profound global implications”.

“The prospects for peace keep diminishing,” he said. “The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing.

“I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open.”

The nearly year-long conflict has been intensifying in recent weeks with fierce battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces for control of towns in eastern Ukraine.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Monday that the battle for the eastern Ukrainian region is “heating up” with Russian forces “throwing new units into the battle and eradicating our towns and villages”.

Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year after Moscow amassed troops near the Ukrainian border and Putin demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.

Moscow’s military campaign has suffered numerous setbacks as Western powers provide financial and military support to Kyiv.

Russian officials have argued that sending arms to Ukraine is prolonging and intensifying the conflict.

While the United States and its allies have said they do not seek a direct confrontation with Russia in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned Moscow against expanding the conflict, promising to protect “every inch” of NATO territory.

Aside from the war in Ukraine, Guterres referenced other threats to peace, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Sahel and Haiti.

“If every country fulfilled its obligations under the [UN] Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed,” he said,

Guterres also sounded the alarm on Monday about the threats posed by climate change.

“I have a special message for fossil fuel producers and their enablers scrambling to expand production and raking in monster profits: If you cannot set a credible course for net zero with 2025 and 2030 targets covering all your operations, you should not be in business,” Guterres said.

Net zero is a climate target to bring emissions that fuel climate change to zero by reducing them and offsetting them, using natural and technological methods to prevent them from reaching the atmosphere.

“Your core product is our core problem,” Guterres told the fossil fuel industry. “We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence.”

Scientists warn that if the global community fails to drastically reduce emissions, the climate crisis will likely have catastrophic consequences for life on the planet.

“We need to wake up – and get to work,” Guterres said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies