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Contrary to false claim, Russia hasn’t closed WHO offices

July 27, 2022 GMT
FILE - The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. Social media users are sharing a false claim that Russia "expelled" the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, file)
FILE - The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. Social media users are sharing a false claim that Russia "expelled" the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, file)
FILE - The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. Social media users are sharing a false claim that Russia "expelled" the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, file)
FILE - The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. Social media users are sharing a false claim that Russia "expelled" the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, file)
FILE - The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. Social media users are sharing a false claim that Russia "expelled" the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, file)

CLAIM: Russia has “officially expelled” the World Health Organization and “closed all of its offices in Moscow.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The WHO continues to operate offices in Russia, the organization confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: A widely viewed Instagram video and posts on other social media platforms are spreading the false claim that Russia banned the global health agency from the country.

“Russia has officially expelled the WHO and closed all of its offices in Moscow,” a woman in the video claims without evidence, before criticizing U.S. COVID-19 vaccine policies and mRNA vaccines. The video has received more than 5,000 likes.

The same claim was spread thousands of times through an image shared on Facebook and Twitter.

In reality, the WHO still maintains its offices in Moscow, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed.

“The claims made in the video are false,” WHO spokesman Bhanu Bhatnagar said in an email to the AP. “WHO continues to operate in the Russian Federation, both through our Country Office and our Office for Noncommunicable Diseases.”

In May, Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy chairman of the Russia State Duma lower house of parliament, did suggest Russia should withdraw from the WHO as well as the World Trade Organization.

The same month, delegates of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, approved a resolution condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine and attacks on health care facilities there.

But Russia remains a member state of WHO and “nothing has changed,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor and director of the university’s WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. Gostin noted in an email that the country still has voting rights in the World Health Assembly.

European member states also suggested the organization should consider moving the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases from Moscow — a position that Ukraine has voiced.

But Bhatnagar said that “matter is still under advisement.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.