UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine.
Mr Guterres laid out his aims for the talks to Mr Lavrov before the meeting started.
He told Mr Lavrov the UN is “extremely interested in finding ways to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, and create the conditions for a peaceful solution".
Mr Lavrov said the situation in Ukraine has “become a catalyst for a great number of problems” which had built up over the decades in the European and Atlantic regions.
At a joint press conference after the talks, Mr Lavrov reiterated his government’s accusations that the administration in Ukraine was trying to ban the Russian culture and language, and had been promoting Nazi ideology through it laws.
The claims have been dismissed by analysts.
Mr Lavrov poured cold water on Kyiv's proposal to hold peace talks in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, and said it was too early to talk about who would mediate any negotiations.
He said Russia was committed to a diplomatic solution in talks on Ukraine, but said it was “depressing” the way the Kyiv delegation and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy were behaving.
Mr Lavrov said Moscow was ready to co-operate with the UN to help civilians in Ukraine.
“Our goals are primarily to protect the civilian population and here we are ready to co-operate with our colleagues from the UN to alleviate the plight of the civilian population,” Mr Lavrov said.
Mr Guterres told reporters at the press conference that their discussion on the Ukraine crisis had been “very frank”.
He said he was concerned by reports that humans rights violations and war crimes may have been committed in Ukraine, and said the battle for the Donbas had brought “tremendous death and destruction” to eastern Ukraine.
He said effective humanitarian corridors were urgently needed to move civilians out of under-fire areas and called for a ceasefire.
Mr Guterres said the UN stands ready to move civilians tout of the besieged city of Mariupol.
“The sooner peace is established the better for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and for the world,” he said.
The UN chief acknowledged differences in opinions in Kyiv and Moscow, but pointed out that there are Russian tanks in Ukraine but no Ukrainian tanks in Russia.
He also said it was clear that Russia had “many grievances” with the UN.
“There is one thing that is true and obvious and that no argument can change: we have not Ukrainian troops in the territory of the Russian Federation but we have Russian troops in the territory of the Ukrainian Federation.”
Mr Lavrov said: “That is true, I confirm that.”
Germany on Tuesday did a U-turn on its approach to heavy weapons for Ukraine and announced it would send military vehicles.
Following domestic and international criticism, Berlin authorised the shipment of about 50 anti-aircraft missile carriers in response to appeals from Kyiv.
The shift came as Nato and EU defence ministers gathered in Germany to discuss further military assistance for the former Soviet nation.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin opened the meeting by declaring that ministers collectively believed Ukraine could win the war.
Before his meeting with Mr Guterres in Moscow, Mr Lavrov told his guest that he wanted to speak about the need for multilateralism and the work of the UN.
Mr Lavrov accused the West of neglecting the principles of multilateralism.
“These principles of true multilateralism have, for a number of years, been flouted by the West that has undertook the tactics of instilling into the world arena the unilateral world order for it to stay for good,” he said through a translator.
Mr Guterres responded by describing himself as a “very committed multilateralist based on the values of the UN Charter and international law”.
He said despite the UN and Moscow having different perspectives on the war in Ukraine, both sides could work together to minimise the suffering of the people there.
“I know that we have … different interpretations about what's happening in Ukraine,” he said during his first visit to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
“That does not limit the possibility to have a very serious dialogue on how best we can work to minimise the suffering of people.”
The UN chief said he was also eager to find ways to reduce the impact of the conflict on other parts of the world.
He said that many countries faced “dramatic impacts of the war” efforts were needed to shield them from knock-on effects in areas such as food security, energy and finance.
He stressed his commitment “to do everything possible to end the war as soon as possible".
Mr Guterres will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks later on Tuesday.
He will travel to Kyiv after his talks in Moscow have concluded.
Mr Zelenskyy criticised his decision to go to Russia before Ukraine, arguing there was “no justice and no logic” in it.
He said it was “simply wrong” for the UN secretary general to hold talks with Russian officials before meeting the Ukrainians.
Mr Guterres has accused the Russian government of violating the UN Charter by sending troops into Ukraine, and has repeatedly demanded a ceasefire.
Mr Lavrov on Monday said there was a realistic chance of a third world war breaking out because of the violence in Ukraine.
“The danger is serious, it is real, you can't underestimate it,” he told the Interfax news agency.
However, he said he felt confident that a ceasefire could be achieved between Moscow and Kyiv.
James Heappey, Britain’s armed forces minister, dismissed Mr Lavrov’s comments as bravado.