The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, warned that the world may be heading towards a "wider war", against the background of the Russian-Ukrainian war, while the Russian government investigation committee said - today, Monday - that it is investigating suspected use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian forces near the towns of Solidar. And Bakhmut.

"We have begun the year 2023 and we face a set of challenges that we have not seen in our lives," Guterres said, between the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and extreme poverty.

He recalled that the group of scholars running the "Doomsday Clock" in Washington recently considered that the time of the clock is 90 seconds past midnight, meaning that humanity has never been closer to the end of the world than it is today, and Guterres saw that as a warning sign.

And he stressed that "we have to wake up and get to work," enumerating a list of urgent issues in 2023, on top of which is the war in Ukraine.

"The chances of peace do not stop diminishing. The risks of escalation and bloodshed do not stop increasing," he added.

"I am afraid that the world is moving towards a broader war, I am afraid that it is doing so consciously," Guterres said, before expressing his concern about other threats to peace, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Afghanistan, passing through Burma, the Sahel and Haiti.

He also said, "If all countries abide by their obligations under the (United Nations) Charter, the right to peace will be guaranteed," placing respect for human rights at the heart of his values.

Russian investigation

In Moscow, the Russian State Investigative Committee said today, Monday, that it is investigating suspected use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian forces near the towns of Soledar and Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has not yet responded to requests for comment on these allegations.

The Investigative Committee stated that the Donetsk People's Republic, a pro-Russian region in the territory it controls in eastern Ukraine, reported the use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian drones near the two cities.

"As a result, Russian soldiers are suffering from a deterioration in their health and symptoms of poisoning," it added, without providing details or specifying the suspected substance.

Since the war began nearly a year ago, Russia has repeatedly warned that Ukraine might be preparing to use unconventional weapons, such as biological weapons or a bomb containing radioactive material.

Ukraine and its Western allies rejected these accusations, and considered it a possible prelude to Russia itself resorting to such methods with blaming Ukraine, but Russia rejected this accusation.

Wagner leader

In a related context, the leader of the Russian "Wagner" militia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, appeared - today, Monday - on a plane he presented as a Sukhoi Su-24 bomber returning from a bombing operation targeting the city of Bakhmut, the center of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

In a video clip, the well-known businessman appeared wearing a helmet and wearing a pilot's mask, in what appeared from the window a scene in the darkness during the landing of the fighter.

Prigozhin said - in this short clip, which his media office published on the Telegram application - "We landed, we bombed Bakhmut."

Prigozhin also challenged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressing that he would board a MiG-29 fighter tomorrow, Tuesday.

"If you want, we will meet in the air," he told Zelensky. "If your plane overpowers you, take back (Bakhmut), otherwise we will go as far as the Dnieper (river)."

The video was published on the day the Ukrainian parliament voted on a resolution classifying the Wagner Group, whose members are fighting on the front lines alongside the Russian army, as a "terrorist organization".

"We are preparing to destroy Wagner as part of international terrorism," Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's main administration, said via Telegram.

Wagner's elements are participating in the attack on Bakhmut, which Moscow has been seeking to control since last summer, which resulted in heavy losses on both sides and massive destruction.

The Ukrainian defense of the city has retreated since the Russians achieved field gains, including the control of the city of Solidar.

Zelinsky admitted - last Saturday - that the situation is "increasingly complicated" on the ground in the face of the Russian forces, especially in Bakhmut.

For his part, Prigozhin spoke - yesterday, Sunday - of "fierce battles in the northern neighborhoods (of Bakhmut), to control every street, every house and every staircase."

European visit

Internationally, European sources reported today, Monday, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may travel to Brussels next Thursday to attend a summit of European Union heads of state and government and to deliver a speech to European representatives.

This will be Zelensky's first visit to the capital of the European Union since the start of the Russian war on Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

A source in the European Parliament expressed the possibility of holding an extraordinary plenary session on Thursday in the presence of the President.

Two other parliamentary sources - who requested anonymity - confirmed this information.

And the Ukrainian president has a "standing invitation" to Brussels, according to a spokesman for European Council President Charles Michel.

For its part, the Ukrainian presidency did not confirm this visit.

Zelensky visited Washington on December 22, on his first international trip since the start of the war.

On that day, he met US President Joe Biden and delivered a speech to Congress.

An extraordinary summit of European leaders is scheduled to be held Thursday and Friday to discuss developments in the war in Ukraine and the European Union's solidarity with Kyiv.

European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and senior EU officials met last Friday Zelensky in Kyiv to show their support for Ukraine's EU accession process.

The country has been officially a candidate to join the union since June 2022, which is a arduous process that requires many reforms that may take years, and Kyiv hopes to speed it up.

Ukraine also receives military and financial support from the European Union, which has pledged 50 billion euros, including humanitarian and military aid.