Diplomats stage astonishing walk-out during speech by Russia's Sergei Lavrov

1 March 2022, 14:46 | Updated: 2 March 2022, 07:36

Diplomats walked out (left) during Sergei Lavrov's recorded message
Diplomats walked out (left) during Sergei Lavrov's recorded message. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Dozens of diplomats from across the world sensationally walked out of a speech by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as he tried to justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The diplomats, including those from Britain, the US and European Union, filed out of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Tuesday during a video message from Vladimir Putin's ally.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent representative, said he would rather listen to Russia at an international tribunal for war crimes.

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"Enough of exposure to the deranged lunacy of war criminals," he said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Mr Lavrov's statement was "full of disinformation" and did not deserve the attention of other members following the Ukrainian invasion.

"Russia is isolated and should be ashamed to sit in the UN chamber," she said.

The diplomatic snub was in stark contrast to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which was met by a standing ovation.

Ms Truss was understood not to have been present during the walk-out, but Rita French, the UK's human rights ambassador to the UN, took part.

Later, the Foreign Secretary delivered a speech to the meeting, in which she squarely 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 would use their "collective heft" to deliver "severe economic costs through these sanctions as ordinary Russians are finding queues at their local banks and rising interest rates".

"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."