Envoys from Western countries and Japan staged a mass walk-out in support of Ukraine during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech at the United Nations Human Rights forum.
More than 100 diplomats from the European Union, the United States, Britain and allied nations, such as Japan, participated in the mass walkout on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Among those who remained were Lavrov’s former deputy and Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, as well as diplomats from Yemen, Tunisia, Venezuela, Syria and China.
Lavrov addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council through a pre-recorded video. He was reportedly supposed to attend the meeting in person but canceled his trip claiming that European Union states blocked his flight on Monday.
Lavrov reportedly blamed Ukraine for the war, accusing the eastern European country of looking to acquire nuclear weapons, which he said posed a “real danger.”
“Today the dangers that [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky’s regime pose for neighboring countries and international security in general have increased substantially after the authorities set up in Kyiv have embarked upon dangerous games related to plans to acquire their own nuclear weapons,” the Russian foreign minister told the Conference on Disarmament.
“Ukraine still has Soviet nuclear technologies and the means of delivery of such weapons. We cannot fail to respond to this real danger,” Lavrov continued. He also called on the United States to “rebase its nuclear weapons from Europe.”
The diplomats walked out of the meeting hall to form a circle outside while holding a Ukrainian flag in support of the nation during Russia’s invasion.
“Thank you very much for this wonderful show of support to Ukrainians who are fighting for their independence,” Ukrainian Ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko, who organized the walkout, said, according to the Japan Times.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Lavrov was giving his “false” version “about what is happening in Ukraine, and so that’s why we wanted to show a very strong stance together,” according to Reuters.
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod and French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont also joined Joly and other diplomats in the walkout.
“Any invasion constitutes a violation of human rights… massive violations and civilian losses,” Bonnafont said. “It is important that the Human Rights Council shows with this walkout that it is united with Ukraine and with the people of Ukraine.”
The Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal — the third largest in the world at the time — in exchange for security assurances and guarantees its sovereignty would be respected as part of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which included Russia as a signatory.