Diplomats leave UN meeting to protest speech by Russian official accused of deporting Ukrainian children
Representatives of several Western countries walked out of a United Nations meeting in protest on Wednesday as Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights Maria Lvova-Belova was speaking, accusing her of spreading “disinformation” about the war in Ukraine.
Lvova-Belova appeared virtually at the informal meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, which was called by Moscow to discuss what it called the “evacuation” of Ukrainian children from the conflict zone. Russia took over the rotating Security Council presidency on April 1.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) last month issued an arrest warrant for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia, an alleged practice that CNN and others have reported on.
Lvova-Belova is “one of the most highly involved figures in Russia’s deportation and adoption of Ukraine’s children, as well as in the use of camps for ‘integrating’ Ukraine’s children into Russia’s society and culture,” according to the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab’s Conflict Observatory.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters: “As Russia takes on the presidency of the Security Council, we will use every opportunity to push back on their using their perch in the chair to spread disinformation and to use their chair to push support of their efforts.”
“So, it’s for that reason today that we have opposed … a woman who has been charged with war crimes, who has been involved in deporting and removal of children from their homes to Russia,” she continued.
Thomas-Greenfield added that the United States, like the United Kingdom, had blocked the webcast of the meeting, so Lvova-Belova was not given “an international podium to spread disinformation and to try to defend her horrible actions.”
Representatives of the US, UK, Albania and Malta then walked out of the conference room as Lvova-Belova was speaking. Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, described the move as “a clear demonstration of their indifference to the fate of the children of Donbas and Ukrainian children.”
The United Nations Security Council is tasked with maintaining global peace and security, and its presidency rotates alphabetically among its 15 member nations. The body is controlled by its five permanent members, including the US and Russia.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described Russia assuming the council presidency on April 1, as its brutal invasion of Ukraine stretches into a second year, as “the world’s worst April Fool’s joke.”
“The country which systematically violates all fundamental rules of international security is presiding over a body whose only mission is to safeguard and protect international security,” Kuleba said.
A Security Council president is supposed to stay neutral. But in its new role, Russia can maneuver meetings on Ukraine and use the month to portray the US and other Western countries as making false accusations against Russia.