More than 100 diplomats from the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and others on Tuesday walked out of a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations in Geneva to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Those remaining at the Human Rights Council meeting included Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, who is a former deputy to Lavrov.
The walkout came less than one hour after diplomats emptied a nearby room at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva after Lavrov’s video speech aired to the Conference on Disarmament, a body created in 1979 to try to stem the Cold War arms race.
Ukrainian Ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko, who led the walkout, thanked those who took part in the stunt.
“Thank you very much for this wonderful show of support to Ukrainians who are fighting for their independence,” she told the crowd gathered around a large Ukrainian flag outside the chamber.
Lavrov was addressing the Human Rights Council remotely, after cancelling his visit because of the closure of European airspace to Russian aircraft.
In his speech, the Russian foreign minister justified his country’s attack on Ukraine by accusing the Ukrainian side of human rights violations against its Russian minority.
He also accused the EU of engaging in a “Russophobic frenzy” by supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine during Moscow’s military campaign that began last Thursday.
Moscow describes the invasion as a “special military operation” aimed at dislodging “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine.
Diplomats who walked out on Lavrov’s speech said the Human Rights Council “must not be misused as a platform for disinformation”.
French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont said “any invasion constitutes a violation of human rights” and “it is important that the Human Rights Council shows with this walkout that it is united with Ukraine and with the people of Ukraine”.