The head of the Russian delegation to a major United Nations climate conference offered an apology for his country’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, according to a report.
Russia’s Oleg Anisimov told delegates from 195 nations at the closed-door virtual meeting of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that “those who know what is happening fail to find any justification for the attack,” according to AFP.
“Let me present an apology on behalf of all Russians not able to prevent this conflict,” he told the government ministers and scientists participating in the meeting.
Anisimov spoke in Russian after the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Svitlana Krakovska, spoke passionately about Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.
“We will not surrender in Ukraine, and we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate resilient future,” she reportedly said in English.
“Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots — fossil fuels — and our dependence on them,” she added.
A source who attended the meeting told AFP “everyone ‘in the room’ was really moved” by Krakovska’s message.
Delegates were surprised when the Russian Anisimov expressed “huge admiration” for the Ukrainian delegation.
“He knows that there is a risk for him, it was a very sincere message,” said another participant, according to AFP.
Reached for comment, Anisimov told AFP his statements “expressed my personal opinion and attitude,” and should not be taken as an “official statement of the Russian delegation.”
U.N. delegates on the IPCC had gathered to finalize a major assessment of how climate change could impact the world over the next few decades. Anisimov, a scientist and longtime Russian delegate to the IPCC, has previously been the lead author on many IPCC climate reports.
Anisimov’s dissenting comments on the unprovoked war come as hundreds of anti-war activists in Russia are protesting against Putin’s government, often at risk of arrest. The protests began Thursday, when Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, sea, and air.
Russian police have begun to crack down on the protests in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to the Associated Press. The Kremlin is issuing propaganda to downplay opposition to the war, but in addition to street protests, tens of thousands of people have endorsed open letters and signed petitions condemning the invasion. Celebrities, athletes, and famous TV personalities have spoken out against the war too.
Russian government officials have attacked opponents of the war. The speaker of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said recently that the anti-war position of “certain cultural figures” was “inappropriate” and “nothing short of betrayal of your own people.”
It is difficult to ascertain the extent of the anti-war sentiment in Russia because Putin’s tyrannical regime has restricted access to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, police are swiftly ending anti-war demonstrations, and state-run Russian media propagandizes for the government.