WHO condemns Russia's aggression in Ukraine in rare vote, rejects Moscow's counter-proposal

  • First resolution condemns Russia's aggression
  • Russia responds in diplomatic tit-for-tat
  • China backs Moscow in both WHO votes
  • WHO reports 235 healthcare attacks in Ukraine

GENEVA, May 26 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization assembly passed a motion on Thursday condemning the regional health emergency triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and rejected a rival resolution from Moscow that made no mention of its own role in the crisis.

The original proposal, brought by the United States and some 50 others, condemned Russia's actions but stopped short of immediately suspending its voting rights at the U.N. health agency as some had earlier sought.

Both resolutions expressed "grave concerns over the ongoing health emergency in and around Ukraine", but only the Western-led proposal says the emergency is "triggered by the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine".

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Yevheniia Filipenko called Russia's counter-proposal a "twisted alternative reality". "The Russian Federation has failed in its cynical attempt to deceive this forum," she said of the outcome. read more

Russia's deputy ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Alexander Alimov called the Western proposal "politicised, one-sided and biased" versus its own "constructive" proposal. "Manipulating the WHO is not acceptable," he said of the result.

China supported Moscow in the two votes, with its envoy Yang Zhilun saying the WHO was the wrong forum for discussing Ukraine's health problems. read more


The twin votes, rare in WHO meetings, are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the conflict but are seen as an increasingly rare multilateral endorsement of Kyiv's position more than three months after the Feb. 24 start of Russia's invasion.

But while the Western-backed proposal passed with 88 votes for and 12 against, it was not resounding and there were dozens of abstentions and absences among the WHO's 194 members.

WHO Europe member states have already passed a resolution that could result in the closure of Russia's regional office. read more

Diplomats said this time they were wary of pushing Russia too far and prompting it to quit, given the need to cooperate with WHO on disease surveillance. Support for political condemnations of Russia has also faded, they said, with Western countries seen by some as too narrowly-focused on targeting Russia at the expense of other issues.

The resolutions come alongside a report from WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, which highlights the "devastating" health consequences of the Russian invasion, including 235 attacks on healthcare as well as wider mass casualties and life-threatening disruptions to health services.

Moscow calls its actions a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of what it calls anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Jen reports on health issues affecting people around the world, from malaria to malnutrition. Part of the Health & Pharma team, recent notable pieces include an investigation into healthcare for young transgender people in the UK as well as stories on the rise in measles after COVID hit routine vaccination, as well as efforts to prevent the next pandemic. She previously worked at the Telegraph newspaper and Channel 4 News in the UK, as well as freelance in Myanmar and the Czech Republic.

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Mrinalika is a business reporter. She has covered the energy and mining industry in North America for Reuters since 2022 and is based in India.