Diplomats from dozens of countries staged a walk out on Tuesday during Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s addresses at the Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in protest against Moscow's attacks on Ukraine.
Representatives from European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States were among those that left the room during Lavrov’s speech, which was delivered by video message after he was unable to travel to Geneva.
“We cannot be expected to sit by while Russia is actively spreading disinformation and falsehoods regarding its aggression against,” the EU Mission in Geneva said in a post on Twitter.
Earlier, ambassadors had similarly staged a walk out of the Conference on Disarmament, assembling outside the room with Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko and a Ukrainian flag.
Lavrov was forced to cancel his trip due to a ban on Russian flights by EU countries, Russia’s Geneva mission said yesterday.
In his speech to the forum, Lavrov denounced the bans as “outrageous measures” and a breach of the right to freedom of movement.
“Members of the European Union have chosen the path of unilateral illegitimate sanctions, using them to evade the direct honest face-to-face dialogue that they clearly fear,” he told members.
A spokesperson for the UN Information Service in Geneva told journalists earlier on Tuesday that the secretary general’s office had reached out to European authorities at the request of the Russian mission in New York to try and help with the flight to attend the Council, stressing that it was ultimately the responsibility of countries not the UN.
Condemnation and disinformation
Lavrov went on to address a long list of grievances against the Ukrainian government, accusing the US and its allies of “double standards” on human rights and of continuing to “aggressively impose the so-called rule-based world order”.
He reiterated claims made by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin that the purpose of the attacks was to protect the people of Donbass and “to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine”.
Responding on Twitter, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, who attended the Council in person, said Lavrov’s statement was “full of disinformation” and did not deserve the attention of other members.
“The Putin regime has left Russia’s moral authority in tatters. It should be ashamed to sit in this chamber,” she said in her earlier statement to the council.
A growing list of member states also took to the floor on the second day of the Council to condemn Russia’s actions and to call on Vladimir Putin to urgently cease attacks on Ukraine.
US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Russia’s human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law “mount by the hour”, citing figures reported by the UN human rights high commissioner’s office – and called for steps to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“This Council’s decision to hold an urgent debate on the crisis in Ukraine is an important step toward ensuring documentation and accountability,” he said during a video message.