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No, Russia’s Putin hasn’t backed Trump’s decision to freeze funding of ‘evil’ WHO

“Putin backs Trump decision says ‘We should terminate WHO” they are evil,” reads the headline of an article on the Nigeria-based website Sahara Gist.

“The Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the decision of the US President to stop funding WHO over their failure to investigate on Covid-19 outbreak,” the poorly written five-paragraph article claims.

Its final paragraph reads: “According to the Russian President Vladimir Putin said: ‘The American government has made the best move so far, in terminating the funding of WHO, they are not capable to protect the world from this virus, they have failed us, I hereby support the American government in this, I will also used this medium to urge the US government to terminate the WHO agenda from Existence because they are Evil.’ Vladimir Putin said.”

The WHO is the World Health Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.

The article has been widely shared on Facebook, where it’s been viewed more than 400,000 times.

“Gist” is Nigerian slang for “gossip”. But is Sahara Gist’s story true?

‘Now is not the time’

On 14 April 2020 US president Donald Trump announced that he would halt funding of the WHO because it had “failed in its basic duty” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018 and 2019, the US funded 14.7% of the WHO’s budget – about US$412 million a year. It was the agency’s largest contributor.

His decision to freeze funds in the middle of a global pandemic was met with concern and condemnation by medical experts and world leaders.

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, said “now is not the time” to halt funding. “It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus ... Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”

‘Very selfish, very disturbing’

Critics included officials in Putin’s government. Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, described Trump’s decision a “very selfish approach” and “very disturbing”.

The Russian government, he said, “call on the US to abandon further attacks on the WHO and pursue a responsible policy that will not destroy the framework of international cooperation in the biomedical field –but rather strengthen this partnership and create the basis for its further improvement”.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for the Kremlin, said: “The heads of the G20, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, support the work of the WHO and place their hopes on the WHO’s future work to analyse the experience of this pandemic.”

If senior members of Putin’s government denounced Trump’s decision, the Russian president would be highly unlikely to support it.

And the news has not been reported by any credible media organisation.

A Google search for the quote Sahara Gist attributes to Putin only returns the article itself. –Taryn Willows


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