Skip to content
WHO: World Health Assembly votes to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine
Placeholder while loading article actions

The World Health Assembly voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution condemning Russian attacks on Ukraine’s healthcare system before rejecting a parallel proposal presented by Moscow that Kyiv’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva had called a “subterfuge” that presented a “distorted alternative reality” of the conflict.

Ukraine’s successful resolution, which was backed by member states 88 to 12 with 53 abstentions, raises the possibility that Russia could be suspended from the assembly if attacks on hospitals and clinics continue. The assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, a United Nations global health agency with a broad mandate.

A counter-proposal put forward by Russia and Syria, which suggested that Kyiv bears responsibility for some civilian deaths, was also rejected on Thursday, 15 to 66 with 70 abstentions. Ukrainian diplomats accused Russia of copying language that condemned an “ongoing health emergency in and around Ukraine” while removing any language that said Russia was to blame.

‘My son’s life depends on it’: A desperate search for insulin in Kyiv as drugs disappear

Russian diplomats speaking at the assembly accused Ukraine of trying to use a traditionally apolitical forum to settle scores. Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the assembly that it was unacceptable to use the WHO to “stigmatize a country”.

Kyiv and its allies argued that the assembly was the ideal place to discuss the impact of the conflict on health, pointing not only to reports of Russian strikes against medical facilities, but also the risk of famine in the world due to the allegedly deliberate blocking of Ukrainian Ports.

“War is a health issue,” said Simon Manley, Britain’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “Health for peace. Peace for health. The World Health Assembly must not be afraid to address health crises, including the cause and, in this case, the aggressor.

Health care becomes a target in Ukraine

The duel votes at the annual meeting in Geneva were the latest blow to Russia’s position in international organizations since it invaded Ukraine on February 24. Two UN General Assembly resolutions passed in March censured Russia for its aggression and the country was suspended from the UN. Human Rights Council on April 7.

A separate vote by European member states of the WHO at a regional meeting on May 10 prompted the UN agency to take a tougher stance on Russia during the war and called on those responsible for WHO to consider closing an office in Moscow.

In Kharkiv, a 24-hour team with paramedics amid Russian shelling

The conflict has wreaked havoc on Ukraine’s health sector. In a report released Thursday by the WHO, the organization said it recorded 256 attacks on health facilities and personnel during the war, resulting in 59 injuries and 75 deaths. A total of 3,998 civilian deaths have been recorded since the start of the invasion.

Ukraine’s successful vote at the World Health Assembly, the main global health event of the year, may not have immediate repercussions for Russia. However, he pointed to references in the WHO constitution that allowed for the removal of the franchise and other rights and benefits.

How isolated is Russia really?

It was a further reminder of how isolated Moscow is on the world stage and offered its many critics a chance to condemn the impact of the war inside and outside Ukraine. Ukraine’s draft resolution was co-sponsored by more than 40 other countries, including the United States and all European Union countries except Hungary.

“Devastating military actions undermine efforts to ensure the health and well-being of all [and] undermine the mission of WHO,” Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told the assembly. “I believe that the organization cannot remain silent in these cases.”

Yevheniia Filipenko, permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN in Geneva, said that “by rejecting Russia’s project, the World Health Assembly has confirmed that the responsibility for the health crisis in Ukraine lies exclusively to the Russian Federation”.

Why Covax, the best hope to vaccinate the world, was doomed

But some nations, without supporting Russia, have expressed concern about condemning a single nation in the assembly. The number of abstentions in both votes was relatively high.

Suspension of a member’s right to vote would be extremely unusual, but not unprecedented: The WHO stripped South Africa of its right to vote in 1964 after codifying its apartheid policy of racial segregation. He only returned the rights after the end of apartheid 30 years later.

Earlier this month, Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said it was considering a Russian withdrawal from both the WHO and the World Trade Organization. Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the State Duma, said the two organizations had “neglected all their obligations to our country”.

This report has been updated.

washingtonpost Gt

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.