Russia takes first steps to withdraw from WTO, WHO

The Russian government is starting the process of unilaterally withdrawing from a series of international bodies, including the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, the Russian Duma’s Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said on Tuesday.

“We have work to revise our international obligations, treaties that today bring no benefit, but instead directly harm our country. The Foreign Ministry sent a list of such agreements to the State Duma,” Tolstoy said. “Together with the Federation Council, we plan to analyze them and to propose to withdraw,” he added.

Tolstoy singled out the international trade and health organizations, saying that “the next step is to withdraw from the WTO and the WHO, which have neglected all obligations towards our country.”

European WHO member countries voted on May 10 in favor of a resolution that forces the WHO to decide on the potential relocation of its European non-communicable diseases office out of Moscow as well as the temporary suspension of regional meetings in Russia. The resolution was slammed by Russia’s Deputy Health Minister Andrey Plutnitsky who described it as a “gross violation of the constitution of the WHO.”

And back in March, a pro-Kremlin minority party in the Duma drew up a bill proposing to withdraw from the WTO after a group of Western countries chose to suspend Moscow’s trade preferences after its invasion of Ukraine.

The idea of withdrawing appears to be a U-turn from the government’s side. Just last month, Moscow was still hinting that it’d rather stay within the trade body. “The Government provides counter-arguments in support of our membership,” Russia’s Mission to the WTO wrote to POLITICO last month, in response to a question about the March bill.