The World Health Organization is still operating in Russia

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The claim: Russia expelled the World Health Organization and closed its offices in Moscow

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Kremlin expelled more than a dozen international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Now some social media users are claiming that the Russian Federation has kicked the World Health Organization out of the country and ended their long-standing relationship.

In posts shared hundreds of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a photo of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is overlaid with text that reads, “Russia expels the World Health Organization and closes its offices in Moscow.”

In comments, some social media users expressed their approval of Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the alleged decision.

“You know if more countries did this there would be less fear and maybe more trust in the government (sic),” one Facebook user wrote in a July 24 post about the meme that more than 110 users shared.

The WHO still operates its two offices in Russia, the organization told USA TODAY, and there is no evidence the country has severed ties with it.

USA TODAY has reached out to several users who shared the post for comment. While the image in the posts appears to be a meme posted by an account called “aliaporicolopian,” USA TODAY couldn’t find any social media pages or profiles with that name.

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In this photo from January 30, 2020, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, talks to the media at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Ghebreyesus has faced many challenges during the coronavirus pandemic: racial slurs, death threats, social media cartoons – he was once portrayed as a ventriloquist dummy in the hands of Chinese President Xi Jinping – and US budget cuts. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

The WHO still operates its two offices in Moscow

The WHO has operated its Russian office in Moscow since 1998, its website says. The organization also has its headquarters from a European office – the European Office for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases – in Russia since 2012.

While some WHO member states have suggested moving one of the organization’s offices from Russia to another European country, neither of its two Moscow-based offices have closed. Russia has not expelled the organization either.

“The claims are false,” a WHO spokesperson told USA TODAY in an emailed statement. “WHO continues to operate in the Russian Federation, both through our country office and our office for noncommunicable diseases.”

As Russia’s attack on Ukraine continued in the spring, a majority of European WHO member states condemned the Kremlin’s military actions, and some called on the region’s director “to explore the possibility of moving our non-communicable disease office from Moscow,” a WHO spokesperson in the United States said. TODAY.

This possible relocation is “still under advisement”, said the organization.

The Associated Press and Reuters have previously verified this claim.

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Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that Russia expelled the WHO and closed its offices in Moscow FALSE. The WHO still operates both its Russian country office and a European regional office in Moscow, the organization told USA TODAY. There is no evidence that the country has severed its ties with the WHO.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • World Health Organization, August 1, email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Reuters, August 1, Fact Check – World Health Organization still active in Russia as of July 2022, contrary to social media posts

  • Associated Press, July 27, Contrary to a false claim, Russia has not closed WHO offices

  • WHO, accessed 1 August, About WHO in the Russian Federation

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: World Health Organization still operating in Russia

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