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Fact check: 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 the Russian Federation has thrown the World Health Organization out of the country and ended their longstanding 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 supposed decision.

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

The WHO is still operating both of its offices in Russia, the organization told USA TODAY, and there's no evidence the country severed ties with it.

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

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In this Jan. 30, 2020 photo, 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 caricatures — he was once depicted as a ventriloquist’s dummy in the hands of Chinese President Xi Jinping — and U.S. funding cuts. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)
In this Jan. 30, 2020 photo, 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 caricatures — he was once depicted as a ventriloquist’s dummy in the hands of Chinese President Xi Jinping — and U.S. funding 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 has also headquartered a European office – the European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases – in Russia since 2012.

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

"The claims are false," a spokesperson for the WHO 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 asked the region's director to "explore the feasibility of relocating our Office for Noncommunicable Diseases from Moscow," a WHO spokesperson told USA TODAY.

This potential relocation is "still under advisement," the organization said.

The Associated Press and Reuters previously fact-checked this claim.

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Our rating: False

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

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