Officials from the UK, France, Canada and Ukraine boycotted Russian representatives during a G20 finance ministers meeting in April, but Senator Wong’s walkout on Friday was the first time an Australian minister has done so to signal their anger over alleged Russian war crimes.
Mr Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi staged an earlier walkout of their own after Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi began speaking. Tokyo has criticized China’s live-fire exercises launched after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan this week.
Senator Wong’s protest came as she was sued on Friday by a Russian billionaire who claimed sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine have caused him severe reputational damage.
Steel mogul Alexander Abramov launched legal action after the former government’s April sanctioning of 67 Russian elites and oligarchs over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions caused severe reputational harm and the legal consequences had led to continuing financial losses, his lawyer Ron Merkel, QC, told the Federal Court in Melbourne.
He wants the sanctions to be removed, arguing they are unique to Australia as no other country has placed similar bans on Mr Abramov, who co-founded Russia’s largest steel producer, Evraz.
“Our real point here is the approach the minister has taken is misconceived,” he said.
Australia’s sanctions had also impacted Mr Abramov’s dealings in New Zealand, Mr Merkel said.
He said the case was unusual as public announcements by former foreign minister Marise Payne, explaining her decision, would form part of the suit.
On April 7, Senator Payne announced the government had decided to impose “targeted financial sanctions and travel bans” on 67 individuals “for their unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
Those sanctioned included Russian military, business and government officials.
The federal government is considering an application to prevent public release of some information in the court documents, Senator Wong’s barrister, Brendan Lim, said.
The matter will return before Justice Susan Kenny on August 26.
– with AAP