The White House’s international climate envoy, John Kerry, warned Russia to not lose sight of the bigger need to combat climate change as it targets Ukraine.
Mr. Kerry, a former secretary of state, told BBC News earlier this week that it was important for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other global leaders to remain committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
“I hope diplomacy will win … but equally importantly, you’re going to lose people’s focus, you’re going to lose, certainly big country attention,” Mr. Kerry said. “I think hopefully, President Putin would realize that in the northern part of his country, they used to live on 66% of … frozen land. Now it’s thawing and his infrastructure is at risk, and the people of Russia are at risk.”
“I hope President Putin will help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate,” Mr. Kerry added
The comments were made on the same day that Russia recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states. As part of the maneuver, Mr. Putin sent in Russian troops on a “peacekeeping” mission, despite warnings from the U.S. and its NATO allies.
Military analysts say the decision to recognize the breakaway areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been controlled by Russia-backed separatists since 2014, was little more than a bureaucratic pretext to invade Ukraine.
Russia followed up the “peacekeeping force” by launching a massive, coordinated attack on Ukraine. Russian military jets bombed numerous cities across the country, as Mr. Putin’s ground forces stormed Ukraine’s border from multiple fronts on Ukraine’s eastern border.
As of Thursday, explosions were reported in at least 16 cities across Ukraine, with missiles raining down on governmental and civilian buildings alike.
A State Department spokesperson said Mr. Kerry’s remarks came before the most recent wave of Russian aggression.
“Secretary Kerry strongly condemns the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” the spokesperson said. “On Monday prior to the attack, he was asked about the climate implications of a potential future conflict.”
Correction: A prior version of this story inaccurately reported that John Kerry‘s comments were made after Russia invaded Ukraine.