The Russian foreign ministry on Thursday condemned a resolution by the Regional Committee for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider shutting down its Moscow Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases. “This runs directly contrary to the organization’s goals and objectives,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Russians noted that Israel supported the draft resolution, listing it among the few states whose votes hurt the most: Georgia, Moldova, and Turkey. Only Belarus and Tajikistan voted with Russia against the resolution, while Armenia and Kazakhstan abstained. Altogether, 38 out of 53 WHO European member states supported pulling out of Russia, including, of course, Ukraine.
The vote followed a visit over the weekend to Ukraine of the organization’s senior leadership, including WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. During the visit, the head of the WHO’s emergency program Mike Ryan said the WHO was continuing to document attacks on health care facilities.
“Intentional attacks on health care facilities are a breach of international humanitarian law and as such, based on investigation and attribution of the attack, represent war crimes in any situation,” Ryan declared, adding that while the WHO documented and verified the attacks, it was the job of bodies such as the International Criminal Court to investigate the criminal aspect of the attacks.
Russian Deputy Health Minister Andrey Plutnitsky pointed out at the committee’s session that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine had started to deteriorate in 2014. “It included numerous civilian deaths in Donbas as a result of punitive actions by the Kiev regime, the destruction of social infrastructure facilities, a loss of access to healthcare, and consequently, a rise in communicable and non-communicable diseases. The danger of the military biological programs that had been implemented in Ukraine by the US and its allies was highlighted separately,” Plutnitsky said.
Last Friday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Russia had been keeping up “a credible and friendly dialogue with Israeli friends,” and that President Vladimir Putin “is keeping in touch with Mr. Bennett, and they have agreed to continue contacts.”
But maybe not in the WHO office in Moscow, because it’s closing down.