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World Health Assembly votes to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine

A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

May 27 (UPI) -- In a symbolic victory for Ukraine, the World Health Organization has voted to condemn Russia's war as a serious health impediment not only for the invaded country but for the wider international community.

The WHO delegates voted 88-12 in favor of the resolution with 53 abstentions at the United Nation's health body's 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Along with condemning Moscow's military aggression against Kyiv, the resolution, which was cosponsored by some 50 nations, urged Russia to cease attacks on hospitals and other healthcare facilities as well as called on it to respect and protect all medical and humanitarian personnel.

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The assembly, which is the WHO's decision-making body, also voted down a counter resolution from Russia and Syria concerning the situation in Ukraine that makes no reference to the Kremlin's military invasion.

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Sheba Crocker, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, called Russia's resolution a "cynical ploy" that was drafted to make the Kremlin appear as "champions of health & humanitarian relief."

"Today's ... vote showed the world will not be fooled by lies & obfuscation," she tweeted after the vote. "Principles and truth matter."

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Crocker detailed for delegate nations during debate that the war is exacerbating the risk of virus outbreaks by creating a lack of access to water and sanitation while causing people to live in cramped conditions and preventing immunization campaigns.

She said the impacts are also being felt outside Ukraine with Russia's war potentially pushing some 40 million people into food insecurity and poverty this year.

"This isn't about politicization. This is about the health of millions and the need to hold Russia clearly accountable," she said, urging member states to vote "yes" on the Ukraine resolution.

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"Conversely, if you vote in support of Russia's resolution, you are standing with a country trying, quite literally, to destroy what this body stands for," she said.

In the lead up to the vote, Russia attempted to frame the Ukraine resolution as "excessively politicized" and its resolution as one "composed in neutral language."

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Simon Manley, Britain's permanent representative in Geneva, chastised Moscow over its resolution, describing it as "a cynical attempt to distract, disrupt and confuse" the World Health Assembly.

"What a joke," he tweeted. "This is based on some twisted alternative reality in which [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's forces haven't been bombing 100s of Ukrainian health facilities & killing 1,000s of [Ukrainian] civilians."

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the WHO has verified 226 attacks on healthcare facilities in the country. The war has also resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 Ukrainian civilians with another 6.6 million forced to flee the country, according to U.N. data.

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