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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Arpan Rai

Officials walk out as Russia’s Sergei Lavrov speaks at European security meeting

AFP via Getty Images

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov came face-to-face with Western critics while attending international security talks on Thursday, amid European protests that Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat was invited to the summit while he wages war against Ukraine.

Some European officials present in North Macedonia walked out as the Russian minister addressed a session for foreign ministers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE), videos of the event showed.

A number of foreign ministers refused to attend the event over Russia’s involvement, including those of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Some states, Ukraine among them, sent no representatives whatsoever. US secretary of state Antony Blinken made only a brief stop in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, late on Wednesday, and did not attend Thursday’s talks.

Mr Lavrov spoke for15 minutes, during which the walkout occurred. It was not immediately clear from videos which countries’ officials were involved.

The Russian foreign minister’s comments followed the now-familiar narrative from the Kremlin that “Nato’s reckless expansion to the East” was to blame for war returning to Europe, rather than his own president’s decision to order the invasion of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, the Western political elites, which have arrogated to themselves the right to decide the fate of humanity, have made a short-sighted choice not in favour of the OSCE, but in favour of Nato. In favour of the philosophy of containment, zero-sum geopolitical games and the ‘master-slave’ logic,” Mr Lavrov told the session.

He also attacked the platform of the summit itself, saying that “the OSCE and its relevant institutions are silent” over what he described as the denial of “the very existence of Russians and their decisive contribution to the histroy of Ukraine”.

And he blamed the start of the Ukraine war on Western tolerance for the “ruling neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv”. Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly alleged that Ukraine’s government is made up of “neo-Nazis,” even though the country has a democratically elected Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust.

Western ministers attending the OSCE meeting were sharply critical of Mr Lavrov after he spoke.

“Russia’s attempts to blame others for its own choices are transparent,” said Danish foreign minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who was speaking when Mr Lavrov himself walked out of the summit.

“We will not compromise on the core principles of the European security order or allow Russia to deny Ukraine the right to make its own independent foreign and security policy choices – principles that Russia itself has agreed to,” he continued.

Based in Vienna, Austria, the OSCE is an intergovernmental organisation focused on promoting security, stability, and cooperation among its participating states.

Nato member North Macedonia lifted a ban on Russian flights to enable Lavrov to attend the meeting. Russian state news agency Tass reported that the minister flew a longer route over Turkey and Greece to reach the summit after Bulgaria blocked his plane from using its airspace.

Greek officials did not immediately return a request for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies

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