The Russian head of delegation at a major UN climate conference apologized for his country’s invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, which he said was unjustified, according to several sources who heard him speak at the virtual meeting.
Russia’s Oleg Anisimov’s surprise intervention at the closed-door meeting followed an exciting live statement from his Ukrainian counterpart, Svitlana Krakovska, who spoke passionately about her country’s plight.
“Let me apologize on behalf of all Russians who have not been able to prevent this conflict,” Anisimov said during the closing plenary of the virtual, 195-nation forum, according to three sources who heard him speak.
Delegates and observers at the sometimes fraught rallies, which were set to end Friday, were stunned by Sunday’s successive statements, according to half a dozen participants.
Those who see what is happening, he added in Russian, “cannot find any justification for the attack on Ukraine”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided a simultaneous translation of his comments into English. AFP had no access to the original statement in Russian.
Ukrainian Krakovska, who has tried to continue working despite the attack on her country, addressed the conference on Sunday morning.
“We will not surrender in Ukraine, and we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate-resilient future,” she said in English, according to multiple sources.
“Man-made climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots – fossil fuels – and our dependence on them,” she added.
“Everyone ‘in the room’ was really moved,” said a source, citing online chats and casual conversations.
Anisimov’s statement — who expressed “tremendous admiration” for the Ukrainian delegation — came as a special surprise.
“He knows there is a risk to him, it was a very sincere message,” said another participant.
Asked by AFP for comment, Anisimov said his statements “expressed my personal opinion and attitude” and should not be construed as an “official statement by the Russian delegation”.
Anisimov is a veteran of the IPCC process and participated first as a scientist and expert on the Arctic. He collaborated on previous reports as lead author.
Overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two-week IPCC meeting was tasked with distilling a 3,500-page report on climate impacts and adaptation into a pivotal 40-page “Summary for Policymakers,” which will go public on Monday. made.
Krakovska expressed sadness that after years of painstaking work by scientists around the world, the IPCC’s findings should now “compete for media space with war”.
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