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Russian climate delegate apologizes on Ukraine, saying many ’fail to find any justification for the attack'

Russia’s Oleg Anisimov’s unexpected remarks came during a virtual U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting of delegates from 195 nations

Protesters gather in front of the White House to call on the United States to help Ukraine defend against the Russian invasion. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
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The head of the Russian delegation at a major United Nations climate meeting apologized Sunday for his country’s invasion of Ukraine, telling hundreds of government ministers and scientists that “those who know what is happening fail to find any justification for the attack.”

Russia’s Oleg Anisimov’s unexpected remarks came during a virtual meeting of delegates from 195 nations who had convened to finalize a major assessment of how climate change will affect the globe in the coming decades, according to two participants who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the closed-door negotiations.

“Let me present an apology on behalf of all Russians who were not able to prevent this conflict,” Anisimov said, according to a participant in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent session.

The comments by Anisimov, a scientist at the state hydrological institute in St. Petersburg, mark a rare public rebuke of the Russian invasion by a government official. His apology came after an impassioned speech from his Ukrainian counterpart, Svitlana Krakovska, who linked the invasion of her country to the global challenge the ministers and scientists sought to confront: climate change.

“Human induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots, fossil fuels, and our dependence on them,” another delegate recalled Krakovska saying.

Anisimov studies climate change in Arctic regions, according to the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, modeling the thawing permafrost and active layers of soil. The area of research is important because as the permafrost melts, it can release methane and accelerate warming trends. Parts of Russia’s Arctic already have warmed at a rate that is as much as triple the global average.

Industrial emissions of methane — from the U.S. Permian Basin as well as Russia’s vast and leaky pipeline network — were a key focus of the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. More than 110 countries have signed up for the Global Methane Pledge, vowing to reduce their emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Russia did not join the coalition even though it has the world’s highest levels of methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Anisimov, who noted that the meeting was focused on “scientific matters, not political” expressed admiration for the Ukrainian delegation’s commitment to participating in the negotiations despite the war in their home country, the first participant recalled.

The report that will be released on Monday discusses the millions of people who will be displaced by climate disasters and conflict linked to food and water shortages, the Ukrainian delegate said. Perhaps in the future, she said, the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians currently fleeing their country will also be seen as climate migrants.

Krakovska woke up in a different world on Thursday, she told fellow negotiators on Sunday. The Ukrainian delegation was briefly absent from the virtual meeting, one witness recalled, but returned to participate in the final sessions.

She declared that she and her colleagues would keep working on the report as long as they had Internet and no bombs were falling on their heads.

“We will not surrender in Ukraine,” she told other delegates. “And we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate-resilient future.”

Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

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