UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will go to Moscow to attend Victory Day events this weekend, the world body announced Monday, amid criticism that Russia should not be rewarded after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that Ban's meetings in Moscow on Saturday are not yet finalized. He's attending events marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Ukraine's foreign minister last week criticized the idea of Ban visiting Moscow amid a rebellion by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine and after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine a year ago. "It would send the completely wrong message," Pavlo Klimkin told reporters.
Many Western leaders have rejected the invitation to attend the Moscow events because of Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict. Others have decided to visit Moscow to pay their respects to Russia for its role in World War II but will not attend the military parade.
The president of the U.N. Security Council this month, Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, told reporters Monday while speaking in her national capacity that "our position is sympathetic to the concerns the Ukrainians have raised." Lithuania has been a vocal critic of Russia in the council over Ukraine.
"The country is affected by a war it has not asked for," Murmokaite said.
Ban also will visit Ukraine on this trip and is expected to meet with President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on Friday. He will meet with Poland's president on Thursday during a stop in Gdansk.
After speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might make his first official overseas visit to Moscow at Russia's invitation, North Korea on Monday said it is sending Kim Yong Nam, the head of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, to the Victory Day event.
Ban is South Korean, and the chances of his meeting the North Korean official are slim.