The Secretary-General remarks to the press in Lviv, Ukraine
19 August 2022
President Zelenskyy, allow me to begin by thanking you and the people of Ukraine for welcoming me once again during such a difficult period.
I am also very pleased to be joined by President Erdoğan.
Just a few weeks ago, the two of us were together in Istanbul for the signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – a landmark agreement to help vulnerable people in every corner of the world.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I have been clear: There is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizers.
I want to express my gratitude to all parties for their support.
In less than one month, 21 ships have departed from Ukrainian ports and 15 vessels have left Istanbul for Ukraine to load up with grain and other food supplies.
As we speak, more than 560,000 metric tons of grain and other food produced by Ukrainian farmers is making its way to markets around the world.
I am especially pleased that the first UN-chartered vessel carrying Ukrainian wheat is on its way to respond to the needs of people suffering from the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in decades.
And as we speak, more than 560,000 metric tonnes of grain and other food produced by Ukrainian farmers is making its way into markets around the world to people in them.
Meanwhile – and critically – we have seen signs that global food markets are beginning to stabilize.
Wheat prices dropped by as much as 8% following the signing of the agreements.
The FAO Food Price Index fell by 9% in July - the biggest decline since 2008.
Most food commodities are now trading at prices below pre-war levels, but still very high.
But let’s have no illusions – there is a long way to go before this will be translated into the daily life of people at their local bakery and in their markets.
Supply chains are still disrupted.
Energy and transportation costs remain unacceptably high.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The positive momentum on the food front reflects a victory for diplomacy – for multilateralism – for people caught in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis – and for the hard-working farmers of Ukraine.
But it is only the beginning. I urge all parties to ensure continued success.
This is an unprecedented agreement and, in my experience, by their very nature, initiatives in conflict situations are inherently fragile.
They must be constantly nurtured.
From day one, the parties of the JCC [Joint Coordination Center] have worked professionally and in good faith to keep the food flowing.
I appeal for this to continue and for them to overcome all obstacles in a spirit of compromise and permanently settle all difficulties.
Getting food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia in larger quantities is crucial to further calm commodity markets and lower prices.
It is essential to provide relief to the most vulnerable people and countries.
And it is vital to help reverse the turmoil in the global fertilizer market that is now threatening next season’s crops – including rice, the most widely consumed staple in the world.
In the meantime, the United Nations will go on working in full solidarity with the Ukrainian people to mobilize all of our capacities and resources – along side our national partners – to continue to provide humanitarian support to people in need wherever it is required.
We will do our best to scale up our operations to face the difficult the coming winter.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
But, of course, the heart of the problem that brings us here remains the war.
As I have stated time and time again, this invasion is a violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and of the United Nations Charter.
The war brought innumerous death, massive destruction and displacement, and dramatic violations of human rights.
People need peace.
Peace in line with the United Nations Charter.
Peace in line with international law.
I remain gravely concerned about the unfolding situation in and around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant.
The facility must not be used as part of any military operation.
Instead, agreement is urgently needed to reestablish Zaporizhhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.
In close contact with the IAEA, the UN Secretariat has assessed that we have in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree.
Military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant.
Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided.
The area needs to be demilitarized.
We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.
Today, I also discussed the investigation of the tragic incident in a detention facility in Olenivka on 29 July.
What happened there is unacceptable. All prisoners of war are protected under International Humanitarian Law.
The International Committee of the Red Cross must have access to them wherever they are kept.
I decided to establish a Fact-Finding mission.
The Terms of Reference of the mission were shared with Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as well as the make-up of the team. It is my intention to appoint General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead this mission.
General Santos Cruz is a respected officer with over 40 years of national and international public security and military experience, including as a commander of UN peacekeeping operations.
We will now continue to work to obtain the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to Olenivka and any other relevant locations.
To put it simply, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts.
The team must be able to gather and analyze necessary information.
Above all, that means safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence without any interference from anybody.
We will continue to do all we can to advance this and other efforts correspond to needs of the Ukrainian people.
Once again, my thanks to President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people for your welcome.
You can continue to count on the support of the United Nations to promote human rights, international law and the cause of peace.