Delegates walk out of OSCE meeting over presence of Russian lawmakers
Ukraine boycotted the latest meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, hosted in Vienna, over the presence of Russian lawmakers that they described as "an affront."
Austria granted them visas even though they are under European Union sanctions and despite protests from 20 countries including Britain, France and Canada.
The two-day meeting of the normally low-profile assembly coincides with the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Their presence aroused the anger of the delegates, and many of them left the room when the floor was given to a Russian parliamentarian. Others, including Latvian delegate Rihard Kols, voiced their anger:
"It's a disgrace that this delegation is here, particularly the delegation that consists of members who are sanctioned individuals who voted to annex independent countries' territories, Donbas, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Luhansk. Those are the principles this institution has vouched to protect and guard."
Russian MPs were not invited to previous OSCE meetings in the United Kingdom and Poland, but Austria, as the host country of the organisation, claims to be bound by an "international agreement".
"It is of course, difficult to sit with Russian parliamentarians who have blindly supported the Kremlin's war," said Margareta Cederfelt, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President. "But it is important that the Russian MPs hear our message. I will be sure to let them know that we reject the war and that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly supports Ukraine."
Outside the venue, demonstrators gathered in front of the OSCE headquarters to denounce the presence of Russian deputies and the war crimes of Vladimir Putin.