Italian prosecutors have alleged that a high-ranking World Health Organization (WHO) official lied to them about a spiked WHO report into Italy’s coronavirus response, the Associated Press reported Friday. They also revealed private communications Friday with potential to embarrass the United Nations health agency.
This follows the international scrutiny the WHO received for its report investigating the origins of COVID-19 inside China, whose authoritarian government was accused, among other things, of not providing full enough access to data for the WHO-led team of experts.
Prosecutors in the northern city of Bergamo placed Dr. Ranieri Guerra under investigation for allegedly making false statements to them when he was questioned in November, at the time serving as the WHO’s assistant director-general, according to the news outlet. Guerra was the U.N. agency’s intermediary with the Italian government after the country early last year became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.
Prosecutors are looking into the massive COVID-19 death toll in Bergamo and whether the country’s unpreparedness entering the pandemic was a factor, according to the AP. Their investigation expanded to include the spiked WHO report into Italy’s COVID-19 response, which revealed that the Italian government hadn’t updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006. Guerra was a high-ranking Italian health ministry official during 2014 to 2017, when the plan should have been updated to comply with E.U. directives.
On May 14, the day after the report was published, the WHO removed it from its website and never reuploaded it, according to the AP. The report’s disappearance, the news outlet noted, suggested that the agency removed it to spare the Italian government criticism, embarrassment, and liability.
When asked at the time whether Guerra or the Italian government had intervened to spike the report, the WHO said it was taken down by its regional office in Copenhagen due to “factual inaccuracies,” according to the AP.
However, documentation gathered by the prosecutors—initially reported by the state-run RAI Report—indicated that Guerra maneuvered to have the report removed because the Italian government was upset with it, per the AP.
In one of the private WhatsApp chats between Guerra and Dr. Silvio Brusaferro included in the documentation, Guerra wrote on May 14, 2020 to the high-ranking Italian public health official: “In the end I went to Tedros and got the document removed,” referencing WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
According to the AP, the WHO press office—in an email to the news outlet on Friday—denied that Tedros was involved in spiking the report and insisted the decision-making about the report was done by the Copenhagen office.
“The Director-General was not involved himself in the development, publishing or withdrawal of the report,” the email reportedly said, reiterating that it was taken down because it “contained inaccuracies and inconsistencies” and had been published prematurely. Guerra, the email added, was no longer an assistant director-general but rather a “special adviser.”
Read the full original Associated Press report, here, to learn more about the story.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.
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U.S. Commerce Department: Chinese firms are supplying Russian entities
On Tuesday, the United States Commerce Department said several companies in China are supplying Russia’s military. The announcement was made alongside a “new round of blacklist restrictions for foreign firms aiding Moscow’s war against Ukraine” reports National Review.
“These entities have previously supplied items to Russian entities of concern before February 24, 2022 and continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties after Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine,” stated an official Commerce Department notice posted to the Federal Register.
“Commerce also blacklisted several Chinese companies and Chinese government research institutes for their work on naval-technology and supplying Iran with U.S. tech in a way that harms America’s national security” adds National Review.
Six companies that are helping further the Russian invasion are also based in Lithuania, Russia, the U.K., Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
National Review reports:
The Commerce Department stopped short of blaming the Chinese government for the sanctions-evasion activity it identified today. Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo previously said that there doesn’t appear to be any “systemic efforts by China to go around our export controls.” The Biden administration has publicly and privately warned Beijing against supporting the Russian war, with White House officials even leaking to the press about an effort to present China’s ambassador in Washington with information about Russian troop movements ahead of the invasion.
While Beijing has not expressed outright support for the invasion, it has used its propaganda networks to back Moscow’s narrative. Meanwhile, top Chinese and Russian officials have moved to solidify the “no-limits” partnership they declared in early February. General secretary Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin held a call this month, marking the construction of a new bridge between their two countries, during which they reiterated their support for the burgeoning geopolitical alignment.
National-security adviser Jake Sullivan said last month that the U.S. has no indications that Beijing has provided Russia with military equipment. A Finnish think tank, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, estimated on June 12 that Chinese imports of Russian oil since the outset of the conflict have amounted to $13 billion, making China the biggest consumer of the country’s oil exports. Previously, it was Germany. “While Germany cut back on purchases since the start of the war, China’s oil and gas imports from Russia rose in February and remained at a roughly constant level since,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted.
Official advisor Anton Gerashchenko tweeted incredible video of Ukrainian soldiers sweeping through fields, writing “this is how our fields are de-mined so that farmers can harvest crops.” On Monday a Russian missile struck a mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, where over 1,000 civilians were inside.
“Almost two dozen people were still missing Tuesday one day after a Russian airstrike struck a Ukrainian shopping mall and killed 18 civilians inside…On top of the 18 dead and 21 people missing, Ukrainian Interior Minster Denis Monastyrsky said 59 were injured. Several of the dead were burned beyond recognition” reported the New York Post.
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 28, 2022
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