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UN seeks $4.2 billion for Ukraine humanitarian aid

Europe
 People carry their belongings at a modular town for refugees from war-hit Ukrainian regions in Lviv, Ukraine, Feb. 9, 2023. [AP Photo]

The United Nations appealed Monday for $4.2 billion to provide humanitarian aid to people dealing with the effects of nearly two years of war inside Ukraine as well as the millions of refugees who have fled to other countries in the region.

In a joint statement, the U.N. humanitarian agency and U.N. refugee agency highlighted Russia’s recent large-scale aerial attacks, saying the violence shows the “devastating civilian cost of the war,” while also calling attention to bitter winter conditions that make the delivery of humanitarian aid more urgent.

"Hundreds of thousands of children live in communities on the front lines of the war, terrified, traumatized and deprived of their basic needs," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said. "Homes, schools and hospitals are repeatedly hit, as are water, gas and power systems. The very fabric of society is under attack with devastating consequences. Our response plan, implemented with national NGOs and volunteers, includes the full range of assistance."

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 5.9 million Ukrainians have fled to other countries in Europe, according to the U.N. Germany and Poland are host to the most Ukrainian refugees, about one million each, with nearly 400,000 in the Czech Republic and more than 100,000 in Moldova, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain.

The U.N. says host nations have generously taken in Ukrainian refugees but need more support from the international community.

“Host countries continue to extend protection and include them in society, but many vulnerable refugees still need help,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “They shouldn’t feel pressed to return because they cannot make ends meet in exile. All refugees must be helped and given opportunities to use and build their talents to prepare them for eventual voluntary return when the situation allows.”

Davos talks

National security advisers from 83 countries gathered in the Swiss town of Davos Sunday, on the eve of the World Economic Forum, to discuss Ukraine's 10-point peace plan that outlines Kyiv’s terms for ending the war with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed the importance of such international gatherings, saying “the rules-based order must certainly be restored—for everyone around the world without exception.”

He said Russia’s leaders “believe that with their violence and terror, they can enforce some other kind of order, a predatory one, without any rules or security guarantees.”

The 83 delegations, including 18 from Asia and 12 from Africa, that participated at the meeting, represented a significantly larger number than the 65 that attended the last round of talks in Malta last October.

National security representatives from emerging economies such as Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa took part in the talks. These countries, along with China and Russia, are part of the BRICS alliance.

Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis, who is co-hosting the talks at Davos, hailed the participants, adding they could play an important role in the talks.

"The participation of the BRICS alliance is very important because these countries have a relationship to Russia. ... All this can create this collective movement to bring in countries that are far from the conflict but can play a role in influencing China and Russia," Cassis said.

Cassis, however, noted China’s absence from the talks.

“China plays a significant role. We must find ways to work with China on this,” he added, in remarks to reporters partway through the talks.

Ukraine's presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, praised the increasing involvement of countries from the Global South in Ukraine’s peace efforts. He echoed Cassis’ comments Sunday that it was important that China be part of the discussions over the "peace formula" process.

It is not clear if the BRICS participants agree with Zelenskyy’s peace plan that calls for Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukrainian territories, Russia’s accountability for war crimes and the return of thousands of Ukrainian children abducted by Russia.

Russia, which was not invited to the meeting, controls a little less than one-fifth of Ukrainian territory. It has dismissed Kyiv’s "peace formula" as absurd as Ukraine aims to find peace without Moscow's participation.

Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska said Sunday it is unlikely that peace will be achieved between Ukraine and Russia until at least May 2025.

"It is a pity that a constructive talk about the situation in Ukraine will not happen — there will be no Russian delegation," Deripaska said in a post on the Telegram app.

Yermak said at a press conference that nothing short of Russia’s complete withdrawal from all Ukrainian territories would be acceptable to Ukraine.

“For all Ukrainians, the most important [thing] is to win this war,” he said.

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