Press Release

Citing dire needs, UN Chief calls for 4-day Holy Week humanitarian pause in Ukraine

19 April 2022

UN Secretary-General's remarks to the press. 

In five days, Ukrainians and Russians will mark Easter.  This holiday unites the Orthodox Christians in both Russia and Ukraine -- as well as Catholic Ukrainians -- in celebration.   

Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection and hope.  
 
It is a time for reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death — and rebirth.   
 
It is meant to be a moment of unity.  
 
But this year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message.  
 
Instead of 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.  
The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead. 

This cannot be allowed to happen. 
 
Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance.   
 
Many good-faith efforts by many parties to reach a ceasefire in Ukraine have failed.  
 
Today I am calling for a 4-day Holy Week humanitarian pause beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, April 24th, to allow for the opening of a series of humanitarian corridors.  
 
The humanitarian pause would provide the necessary conditions to meet two crucial imperatives.   
 
First, safe passage of all civilians willing to leave the areas of current and expected confrontation, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross. 
 
Second, beyond humanitarian operations already taking place, a pause will allow for the safe delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.   
 
The United Nations is ready to send humanitarian aid convoys during this period to these locations.  We are submitting detailed plans to the parties.   
 
Humanitarian needs are dire.  People do not have food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded or simply to live day-to-day.  
 
More than 12 million people need humanitarian assistance in Ukraine today.  Of those, more than one-third are in Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.  
 

We anticipate that this figure will increase to 15.7 million – that’s about 40 percent of all Ukrainians still left in the country.   
 
There is a measure of progress to build upon.  Some 2.5 million people have been provided with assistance in the past seven weeks, including many in the east.  
  
For all these life-or-death reasons, I call on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk. 
 
The 4-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine.   
  
This morning, the Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths briefed the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations – including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish leaders.  I welcome their support.   
 
Inspired by Holy Week and all that it represents, I urge all parties – and all champions of peace around the world -- to join my Easter appeal.  
 
Save lives. 
 
Stop the bloodshed and destruction.    
 
Open a window for dialogue and peace and keep faith with the meaning and the message of Easter.  
 
Thank you. 

Citing dire needs, UN Chief calls for 4-day Holy Week humanitarian pause in Ukraine

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