The UN Security Council will hold an open meeting on Monday on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine as the conflict intensifies and Ukrainian leaders call for the creation of humanitarian corridors.
The United States and Albania requested the meeting, which will hear briefings by UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Catherine Russell, executive director of the UN children’s agency UNICEF, diplomats said on Friday.
At the request of France and Mexico, the council meeting will be followed by closed consultations on a draft resolution on the humanitarian plight of Ukrainians, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations on the meeting have been private.
The United Nations launched an emergency appeal on March 1 for 1.7 billion dollars (£1.3 billion) to respond to soaring humanitarian needs of both people who fled Ukraine and who remain in the country. It immediately received pledges of 1.5 billion dollars (£1.1 billion) and has urged that the pledges be turned into cash quickly.
The UN estimates that 12 million people staying in Ukraine and four million fleeing to neighbouring countries in the coming months will need humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Ukraine has called Russia’s attack on a nuclear plant a war crime.
“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant,” the embassy statement said. “Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further.”
Russian troops seized the plant on Friday in an attack that set it on fire and briefly raised fears of a nuclear disaster. The blaze was extinguished and no radiation was released.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia’s action “nuclear terrorism” and appealed to the UN Security Council for action to safeguard Ukraine’s endangered nuclear facilities.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal appealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the EU to send representatives to all five of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. “This is a question of the security of the whole world,” he said in a night-time video address.
It comes as the head of Ukraine’s security council called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the elderly to escape the fighting.
Oleksiy Danilov said on Friday more than 840 children have been wounded in the war. A day earlier, the Ukrainian government put the death toll among children at 28.
He spoke ahead of the latest talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations, planned for this weekend.
“The question of humanitarian corridors is question number one,” Mr Danilov said on Ukrainian television. “Children, women, elderly people – what are they doing here?”
Russian troops have encircled and blockaded several large cities in the south of the country, including Mariupol, trying to cut Ukraine off from the Black and Azov seas.
Ukrainian officials have asked for help from the Red Cross in organising corridors, describing the situation in the blockaded cities as “close to a catastrophe”.
Mr Zelensky will talk to US senators on a video conference call on Saturday morning, according to a person familiar with the invitation from the Ukrainian embassy.