Speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, the UN chief said: “Moldova is not just another country hosting refugees. [and] … I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war that Russia is waging in Ukraine, and about the impact it is having, not only in the region, but around the world.”
“The United Nations is committed to supporting not only the people of Ukraine, but also the people of Moldova in these difficult times,” said Mr Guterres, adding: your sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and the solid progress made you have made over the past three decades should not be threatened or undermined.”
‘Refugees live with families of Moldovans’
The United Nations has launched a large-scale operation designed to provide aid to residents of Ukraine, including those on the territory of Moldova: at the Palanca border crossing, refugees are greeted by UN staff who help them orientate themselves and decide what they must then provide material and legal support and provide them with the necessities of life.
“But of course that’s not enough. We need to do a lot more,” the secretary-general emphasized at the start of his two-day visit to the country.
“It was not easy for the UN to readjust to a humanitarian crisis in Europe. Here we do not have the traditional forms of humanitarian aid in crisis areas of the developing countries, in fragile states,” continued Mr Guterres, adding that there are no refugee camps in Moldova: Moldovans open their homes to Ukrainians.
The UN has rearranged its operations to meet this reality and is currently scaling up its most effective programs, including for providing monetary aid. The UN chief said people should be trusted to know their needs.
The UN plans to provide such aid to 90,000 refugees and 55,000 of the families who take them in.
The impact of the war ripples through the region’s fragile economies
Moldova is a small European country with a “fragile economy”. It is completely landlocked and the port of Odessa, through which it ships its merchandise to the world market, has been closed because of the war.
Moreover, Moldova is not only the country that opened its doors to displaced persons, like many of its neighbors: relative to its population size, it has taken in the largest number of Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
While calling for “massive support” to match Moldova’s generosity, the secretary-general stressed that other neighboring countries such as Moldova are already grappling with the socio-economic impact of this war on top of the COVID-19 pandemic and uneven global recovery.
In light of these and other pressing concerns, the UN chief urged Kiev and Moscow to “step up diplomatic efforts through dialogue to urgently reach a negotiated settlement, in accordance with international law and the UN Charter”, and called on regional and international partners to support this process “in the interest of global stability”.
“The impact of the war in Ukraine on the region and the world is profound and far-reaching. The consequences of escalation are too frightening to contemplate,” he said, stressing: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine must stop. The weapons must be silenced.”
Basis of peace and security
“On May 9, on this day, we must remember that dialogue and cooperation based on mutual respect are the foundation of peace and security in Europe and around the world,” said Mr Guterres, referring to what is known as ” Victory Day’. ‘, which marks the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II in 1945.
This year, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the anniversary of the victory over fascism in Chisinau was greeted with some trepidation, with media in the region reporting possible mass actions and even the threat of clashes between supporters of different approaches. in assessing those historical events.
“It’s pure coincidence that I’m here on 9 May. This visit has been programmed in conjunction with the meeting of the [United Nations] Chief Executive Board in Vienna, and so it was convenient, both for the government of Moldova and for me,” said Mr Guterres in response to a question from a journalist.
The Secretary-General congratulated Moldova on the 30th anniversary of its accession to the United Nations. In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and gaining independence. In this regard, he greatly appreciated Moldova’s contribution to peacebuilding, promotion of sustainable development and gender equality, as well as to the fight against climate change.
Funding for humanitarian aid
The UN has asked for $2.5 billion for humanitarian aid in Ukraine and $1.85 billion for aid to Ukrainian refugees in other countries.
“I urge all countries to give generously. Overall, these are minuscule amounts,” the Secretary-General said, calling on all countries to consider strengthening their economic cooperation with Moldova.
Although the current flow of refugees to Moldova is not comparable to the first weeks of the war, the number of arrivals at the border of Ukrainians displaced by UN officials is rising sharply on some days, usually as a result of an escalation of hostilities, according to UN officials. According to UN estimates, the number of refugees in Moldova will increase to one million people by the end of the year, with up to 250,000 more likely to remain in the country.
In addition to his other activities, the Secretary General met today with the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Grosu, and will meet on Tuesday with the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu.
Tomorrow, the UN chief is also expected to visit the MoldExpo exhibition center, where UN personnel and civil society organizations work tirelessly to help refugees from Ukraine. In addition, Mr Guterres is expected to visit one of the Chisinau families who have been sheltering Ukrainians.