UN diplomats walk out on Russian minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech in protest at Ukraine invasion

“They cannot attack our freedom. We will fight until the end and we will win,” said Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN.

Furvah Shah
Tuesday 01 March 2022 16:45 GMT
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Diplomats walk out en masse as Russian minister addresses Conference on Disarmament

This is the moment diplomats at the United Nations walked out on the speech of Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in protest at his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dozens of officials, including those from Britain, the US and the European Union, left the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday as a video message from Vladimir Putin’s ally played.

It came as an increasing number of countries impose sanctions and isolation onto Russia in response to their invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, said Mr Lavrov’s statement to the UN was “full of disinformation” and did not deserve the attention of other members.

Ambassadors and diplomats leave while Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (on screen) addresses with a pre-recorded message.
Ambassadors and diplomats leave while Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (on screen) addresses with a pre-recorded message. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During his speech, Mr Lavrov’s placed blame on Ukraine for the invasion and claimed Kyviv was in possession of nuclear weapons that would be a danger to Russia and require a response.

“Russia is isolated and should be ashamed to sit in the UN chamber,” Ms Truss said.

While Ms Truss is understood not to have been present at the walkout, Rita French, the UK’s human rights ambassador to the UN, took part.

Representatives from multiple nations joined the UN walkout
Representatives from multiple nations joined the UN walkout (REUTERS)

During Mr Lavrov’s speech, UN diplomats stood outside symbolically holding a Ukranian flag.

Speaking outside, Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yevheniia Filipenko, said: “They cannot attack our freedom. We will fight until the end and we will win.

“We feel your support, we greatly appreciate all of your support and the steps we have taken today in international Geneva send a very strong signal to the Russian Federation that such actions are not acceptable and not tolerated in the 21st century.”

In contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg was met with a standing ovation by those present.

Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Ukraine's ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko and other delegates gathered with a Ukrainian flag after walking out of the Human Rights Council meeting.
Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Ukraine's ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko and other delegates gathered with a Ukrainian flag after walking out of the Human Rights Council meeting. (REUTERS)

Later, Ms Truss delivered a speech to the meeting, in which she blamed the Russian president for the deaths of both Russians and Ukrainians.

“Putin is responsible for civilian casualties and over 500,000 people fleeing with the numbers still rising fast. The blood is on Putin’s hands, not just of innocent Ukrainians but the men he has sent to die,” she said.

Ms Truss said allies to Ukraine would use their power to deliver “severe economic costs through these sanctions as ordinary Russians are finding queues at their local banks and rising interest rates”.

“The steps we have taken today in international Geneva send a very strong signal to the Russian Federation that such actions are not acceptable and not tolerated in the 21st century,” said Filipenko
“The steps we have taken today in international Geneva send a very strong signal to the Russian Federation that such actions are not acceptable and not tolerated in the 21st century,” said Filipenko (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“These consequences will only increase in breadth and severity as the conflict goes on. We’re working to squeeze the Putin regime harder and harder by steadily tightening the vice,” she said.

“We’re going after the highest echelons of the Russian elite, targeting President Putin personally and all of those complicit in his aggression. Nothing and no one is off the table.”

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