Speech of A/Minister of Health Dr. Ulana Suprun at the High Level Meeting on Ending Tuberculosis, the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (As Delivered)
The fight against tuberculosis is high on the agenda for UN member states. If poorly addressed TB will remain a leading cause of death from infectious diseases. BCG vaccination is one of our tools to prevent death from the TB epidemic but the world is facing a new threat in the fight against this disease, one amplified by technological advances in communication - a hybrid war against health.
Research by the American Journal of Public Health recently found that Russian trolls and bots have been fueling anti-vaccination myths, spreading lies and posting anti-vaccine messages on social media sowing discord and eroding public trust in vaccination and healthcare systems. Quantifying the consequences is not impossible.
American researchers analyzed thousands of tweets between 2014 and 2017 about vaccination, discovering most came from Russian accounts, state sponsored trolls and bots, promoting discredited theories about vaccination, including that vaccines caused autism or led to deaths.
Experts warned us that Russia intends to undermine the credibility of and trust in western institutions of government, in the US and Europe, by spreading lies and fake news on-line. The Kremlin’s hybrid methods target public health efforts promoting vaccination in Ukraine and around the world. This is a proven fact.
The result: measles cases in Europe hit a record high – 41,000 cases across the continent in the first half of 2018, with 37 deaths. In Ukraine, Russian bots, trolls, Russian controlled media outlets, and political surrogates continue eroding public trust in vaccination giving Ukraine the highest numbers of reported measles cases in the current outbreak. For many Ukrainians, this is a death sentence.
Is this simply an adversarial approach by Russia to undermine honest and open discussion and debate in democratic societies? Since 2014, nearly 11,000 people have been killed by Russian troops and their proxy terrorists. We still have no access to Ukrainians in the temporarily Russian occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts but independent observers confirm they are denied medical care. The Russian occupation is particularly acute for patients requiring constant care and medicines, people suffering from diabetes, TB, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic diseases.
While Ukraine is facing the primary assault from Russia's comprehensive hybrid war including in the field of healthcare, it is not alone. The hybrid war against healthcare in Ukraine and around the world is part of Russia’s war against humanity.
Little green men occupied Crimea giving cover for Russia to deny involvement and for the world community to delay acting against violations of the principles governing international relations – recognizing state sovereignty and the inviolability of international borders. Russia’s hybrid war is a threat to public health. The international community must respond with confidence, beginning by recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and limit Russia’s role on the UN security council.
As delivered on Sept. 26, 2018, at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending Tuberculosis, 73rd General Assembly, United Nations, New York City, NY.
Please follow the link to read the full speech in Ukrainian