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‘How can you blame WHO because someone ate a bat?’ Russia stands up for health organization after US Covid row

‘How can you blame WHO because someone ate a bat?’ Russia stands up for health organization after US Covid row
One of Russia’s top diplomats has spoken out in defense of the World Health Organization (WHO) after the US moved to pull out of the group over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, told journalists on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the WHO are unfair. According to him, the organization “has suffered innocently, one might say. How can you blame the WHO for the fact that someone ate a bat, and [claim] that it has become an instrument of Chinese influence?”

At the same time, Nebenzya said, given the US government has announced it will boycott the healthcare body, there are opportunities for other countries to play a role. Until now, he claimed, the power in international bodies like the WHO had been with “the Anglo-Saxons and, above all, the Americans.”

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In July, Trump announced that the US had begun to formally withdraw its support from the group, claiming that it had become “a puppet of China,” which he holds responsible for the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million Americans.

The decision would suspend the country’s annual contribution of $400 million, and the White House has indicated that it will refuse to pay its outstanding dues, amounting to more than $60 million. Instead, it will look to use the money to pay down other debts to the UN.

Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate who has claimed victory following the disputed US presidential elections last week, has previously set out his support for the organization. During the campaign, the former vice president took to Twitter to declare that “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as President, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, has been singled out for criticism over his handling of the crisis. He has previously pleaded with world leaders not to “politicize this virus.”

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