UN diplomats walk out as Russia’s foreign minister addresses the Human Rights Council

In protest against Moscow’s war on Ukraine, around 100 diplomats from countries around the world left Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, led the walkout, which left a nearly empty conference room to hear Lavrov’s pre-recorded video message at the disarmament council meeting.

The Ukrainian envoy said the action “sent a very strong signal” to Moscow that the ongoing invasion and assault by the Russian military was “not acceptable”.

Lavrov said he had planned to attend the session in person but was unable to travel to Switzerland after the European Union banned flights from Russia.

According to New York Times:

He accused Ukraine of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, an unsubstantiated claim that Moscow used as one of the justifications for its invasion. Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for security guarantees.

Mr Lavrov repeated Kremlin claims that Ukraine had “made territorial claims against the Russian Federation, threatened to use force and acquire military nuclear capability”. In earlier comments to the Conference on Disarmament, he said Ukraine still possessed Soviet-era technology that would allow it to deliver such weapons, adding: “We cannot fail to respond to this real danger.

Speaking just two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on special alert and a day after Belarus agreed to host Russian nuclear weapons, Lavrov said the Kremlin believed that a “nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought” – repeating a phrase adopted by Putin and US President Joe Biden during a summit in July 2021.

However, the Times reported:

Lavrov added that the United States should withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe and dismantle the associated infrastructure.

The current “hysteria” within NATO and the European Union has confirmed that “it was and still is the goal of the United States and all of its Washington-built allies to create an ‘anti- Russia,'” he said.

Lavrov’s remarks came just before Russia’s Defense Ministry warned Kyiv residents to leave their homes immediately as Russian forces advanced on the Ukrainian capital and announced plans to bomb targets in the city.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Russian missile hit Kharkiv’s main square, killing at least seven people, injuring dozens and damaging an administrative building in Ukraine’s second-largest city.