(CNSNews.com) – Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations on Monday walked out of a Security Council meeting focused on sexual violence in the war in Ukraine, after European Council president Charles Michel accused Moscow of war crimes and blamed it for sparking a global food crisis by invading its neighbor.
“You may leave the room,” Michel said as Vassily Nebenzia left the chamber in New York. “Maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth, Ambassador.”
Nebenzia’s deputy, Dmitry Polyankskiy, subsequently tweeted back at Michel: “We came there to listen to the truth. But E.U. clearly doesn’t need it and we heard only cheeky lies and unsubstantiated claims many of which have been already debunked.”
“It’s painful to see such low professional standards and lack of manners from key E.U. functioners [sic].”
The council was briefed earlier by Pramila Patten, special representative of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on sexual violence in conflict, who visited Ukraine last month.
Patten said U.N. human rights officials had received reports of 124 alleged acts of conflict-related sexual violence against Ukrainian women, girls, men and boys. A national hotline has received reports of crimes including rape, gang rape, threats of rape, and coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child.
“More and more allegations show Russia’s soldiers sexually assaulting women and girls, as well as men and boys,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
“We have heard from Ukraine’s foreign minister of multiple cases of sexual violence by Russian soldiers in Ukrainian cities that were under the control of Russia’s forces. We have heard from Ukraine’s deputy prime minister that Russian soldiers raped Ukrainian women for hours – and then killed them.”
Nebenzia emphatically denied reports of Russian soldiers abusing and raping women in Ukraine, calling the allegations “a lie that we strongly reject,” and saying that they align well with Western depictions of Russian soldiers as “beasts and boorish barbarians.”
He said those actually carrying out those types of crimes were “members of Ukrainian armed forces and nationalist battalions.”
“So if you truly want to combat the practice of sexual crimes in Ukraine, do not turn a blind eye to numerous cases of such crimes committed by Ukrainian military – even though political considerations encourage you to ignore this obnoxious practice,” he said.
When it was his turn to speak, Michel said, “We hear reports of Russian forces wielding sexual violence as a weapon of war. Sexual violence is a war crime, a crime against humanity, a tactic of torture, terror and repression – shameful acts in a shameful war.”
Michel also broached the food crisis that is particularly affecting developing countries heavily reliant on Ukraine for grains.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of deliberately preventing the export of Ukrainian grain shipments via the Black Sea, and of attacking infrastructure relating to the food supply chain. Moscow blames Ukrainian-laid mines in the Black Sea, and says Western sanctions are responsible for Russia not being able to get its own grain and fertilizer to markets.
“Mr. Ambassador of the Russian Federation, let’s be honest,” Michel said. “The Kremlin is using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries. The dramatic consequences of Russia’s war are spilling over across the globe and this is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty, and destabilizing entire regions.”
“And Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis,” he continued. “Russia alone, despite the Kremlin’s campaign of lies and disinformation.”
Michel said he had witnessed for himself in Odesa millions of tons of grain and wheat that cannot move due, he said, to Russian warships in the Black Sea and Russian attacks on transport infrastructure.
He called Russia’s attempts to deflect blame “pure and simple propaganda,” and said E.U. sanctions do not target Russia’s agricultural sector, and do not prevent Russian-flagged vessels “from carrying grain, food, or fertilizers to developing countries.”
Nebenzia walked out, prompting Michel’s comment: “You may leave the room. Maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth, ambassador.”
“Nebenzia running away from the Security Council was quite an entertainment today in the Chamber otherwise filled with toxicity of Russian drooling lies,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted after the meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey this week to discuss proposals to facilitate the export of grain currently blocked in Ukrainian ports. Russian media outlets report that an agreement has already been reached for a plan to unblock the shipments, involving the Turkish and Russian navies.
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