(Bloomberg) -- US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry skipped a group photo that included a Russian official at pre-COP27 climate talks in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kerry said he was among several western officials who shunned the photo opportunity. The US has imposed waves of sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t know if it was a big decision on the part of everyone, but I know very well that all the ministers of these countries are very bothered by their presence,” Kerry told reporters in French on Tuesday in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. “Russia is not a country at this moment that’s treated like others, and they didn’t want to be there for a photo.”

Read: US Urges Congo to Halt Oil Bids in Sensitive Forests, Kerry Says

Russian Special Presidential Representative on Climate Issues Ruslan Edelgeriyev didn’t notice anyone refusing to take part in the photo opportunity.

“If we discuss international conflicts instead of following the agenda of a particular conference, we will not achieve the result that the conference was meant to bring about,” Edelgeriyev said in a response to a request for comment sent to the Russian Embassy in Congo. “Wasting time discussing matters irrelevant to climate change will get us nowhere and will benefit no one.”

Kerry downplayed the snub, saying that the work of the conference was primary in the lead up to COP27, which is set to take place in Egypt next month.

“A photo is a photo, but the work of COP is continuing,” he said.

(Updates with comment by Russian climate representative from fourth paragraph)

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