In the week between July 14 and 20, pro-kremlin channels spread a fake story that “black transplant specialists” were taking organs from wounded soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and pro-russian locals in Donbas. The russian media filmed another story about “combat drugs” under which Ukrainian soldiers go into battle. Conspiracists assured that because of COVID-19, people are being prepared for concentration camps. Meanwhile, social media spread the myth that monkeypox is spread through homosexual relationships.
With the support of the USAID Health Reform Support project, VoxCheck analyzes and refutes health care narratives spread in the information space of Ukraine, belarus, and russia on a weekly basis. Read previous issues here.
Disinformation: In Donbas, “black transplant specialists” take organs from wounded Ukrainian soldiers and locals with pro-russian views
russian Telegram channels are spreading the statement of the militant of the so-called “lnr”, representative of the “people’s militia of the LNR” Andrii Marochko. He stated that “black transplant specialists” work among the Ukrainian military in Donbas. In the territory where hostilities are taking place, wounded Ukrainian servicemen and local residents with pro-russian views are allegedly “disappearing somewhere”. Marochko mentioned that he had evidence of the work of “Western transplant specialists” who transport organs to the territory of Ukraine and then to the West.
What’s the reality?
This statement is absurd for several reasons. First, organ transplant operations involve a large number of personnel and equipment. It is hardly possible to conduct them in the territory where active hostilities are taking place.
Director of the National Institute of Surgery and Transplantology named after O.O. Shalimov Oleksandr Usenko explained that the transplant operation itself should involve not one or two people, but more than 150 professional and experienced doctors. In addition, appropriate high-tech support, and conditions for storage and preservation of organs should be equipped. The Ukrainian Ministry of Health has repeatedly emphasized this, adding that “black transplant specialists” in Ukraine are a myth.
Without proper conditions and specialists, it is impossible to carry out even simple organ harvesting. According to the head of the first surgical department of the first medical association of Lviv Hnat Herych, this requires a team of at least 6-8 surgeons, depending on which organs need to be taken.
Second, organs remain viable for transplantation outside the body for a short time: heart and lungs — 4-6 hours, liver — 8-12 hours, kidneys — 24-36 hours. During this time, they would have to be somehow transported first from the territory of hostilities in the Luhansk region, leaving which is already difficult, and then transported to the West.
Third, living donors are carefully screened and selected. And before transplanting organs, their recipients are determined in advance according to specific criteria of compatibility with the donor. For example, blood type, height and weight, medical history or other biological factors.
In addition, EU legislation determines that “donations of all organs from deceased and living donors are voluntary and unpaid and they should be accompanied by the necessary consent”.
Pro-kremlin channels are using the myth of the so-called “black transplantology” not for the first time during the war in Ukraine. Earlier, russian Telegram channels wrote that Western countries buy human organs for transplantation cheaply in Ukraine.
Disinformation: The world’s elites seek to herd people into concentration camps with the help of quarantine restrictions
COVID-19 remains one of the main topics about which anti-vaccinationists and conspiracy theorists spread misinformation. This week it was as if:
- Klaus Schwab, president of the World Economic Forum (WEF), said that if the COVID-19, with which the elites are resetting the world, does not fulfill its purpose, then they will once again continue the pandemic to limit people’s rights.
- On July 12, 2022, the Director General of the WHO announced that quarantine restrictions should be returned and vaccination against COVID-19 should be implemented. This is another confirmation that people’s rights will be violated again and they will be sent to a concentration camp.
- The WHO representative stated the importance of genomics development during the COVID-19 pandemic. This confirms that the vaccines against COVID-19 change genetics.
What’s the reality?
Klaus Schwab did not talk about the artificiality of the pandemic and its continuation. In fact, the WEF president spoke of the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink and reset the world: “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world”
The Great Reset is a WEF initiative launched in 2020 to address the key challenges of modern capitalism. WEF organizers call the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic an excuse to accelerate the search for solutions to the systemic problems that have intensified in many countries of the world during the pandemic (namely, weak economic growth and declining welfare, excessive accumulation of public debt, rising poverty and unemployment, climate change and political instability).
On July 12, the WHO Secretary General said that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing due to virus mutations, a decrease in the number of tests for COVID-19, not always timely diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, slow rates of vaccination, insufficiently effective communication between the scientific community, political management and the population regarding the risks of infection. Due to this, the number of cases of COVID-19 in the world continued to increase in early July.
To contain the spread of COVID-19, the WHO recommended the use of proven methods: wearing masks, improving the ventilation of premises, conducting testing, using medicines and vaccines. The Secretary-General emphasized that governments should adopt strategies to combat COVID-19 depending on the epidemiological situation and the possibility of the emergence of new variants of the virus. Remind that all the listed measures have proven effectiveness in overcoming the pandemic and have nothing to do with “concentration camps”.
The head of the WHO mentioned genomics, that is, the study of genes and their functions, because knowledge in this field helped to identify the virus and its new variants, develop tests, drugs and vaccines against COVID-19. However, vaccines do not change human genetics and remain a safe way to prevent infectious diseases.
Misinformation: Monkey pox is transmitted through homosexual contacts
What’s the reality?
Today, the transmission of monkeypox really mainly occurs among men who have recently had sex with one or more men. However, this disease is not transmitted through homosexual relations.
The incubation period when infected with monkeypox can last up to 3 weeks. Most patients develop a rash similar to a blister or acne. Rashes are most often found on the face, hands, vagina, soles of the feet, mouth and throat, around the genitals and anus. An infected person may also experience fatigue, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, headache, muscle pain, and back pain.
Monkey pox can be transmitted by airborne droplets in the event of prolonged and close contact with an infected person, after contact with blood, affected skin, mucous membrane of infected persons or after contact with things used by an infected person. A pregnant woman can also transmit the virus to her unborn child.
Since monkeypox is transmitted through contact with the affected skin, mucous membrane, people can become infected during sex. However, monkeypox is not yet considered a sexually transmitted disease. The monkeypox virus has been found in the semen of infected people, but it is still unknown whether it is possible to contract this disease through semen and vaginal secretions.
Instead, sex is the main mechanism of spread of sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, etc.). To prevent these diseases, it is enough to use contraception and limit the number of sexual partners. In the case of monkeypox, such preventive measures do not guarantee safety, because it is possible to get infected with it even without sexual intercourse.
The risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with other men. Anyone who has close contact with an infected person is at risk.
Scientists have several theories as to why cases of monkeypox are more common among men who have sex with other men. First, men from this group are usually more careful about their sexual health and are examined at sexual health clinics, where they are diagnosed with monkeypox. In other words, they may be tested for various diseases more often than heterosexual men. Second, some men are closely connected to sexual networks (groups of people who are sexually connected) that extend beyond individual cities and countries. In addition, men from these sexual networks may change sexual partners more often and are more likely to have multiple partners at the same time, increasing the risk of disease transmission.
Disinformation: Ukrainian soldiers were pumped with drugs from biolaboratories, one of such laboratories was found in Rubizhne
On July 16, the “russia-1” TV channel aired a story about a “network of biolaboratories” in the Luhansk region, which were conducting experiments on local residents for Western countries. In the plot, the factory of the pharmaceutical company “Microkhim” is called a “biolaboratory”. They allegedly found documents proving the conduct of experiments with Escherichia coli, staphylococcus and salmonella.
In addition, it is mentioned that in the basements of the university in Rubizhne, experiments were conducted with powerful drugs, in particular Nalbuphine. Propagandists say that it has not passed registration, but it can be found in the first-aid kits of Ukrainian soldiers in the form of a spray: “They used these drugs and went into battle, all pain receptors are dulled.”
What’s the reality?
First, the factory of the company “Microkhim” is not a “Western biolaboratory”, and the documents shown in the plot only prove that there could be conducted standard clinical trials conducted by various pharmaceutical companies around the world.
The company “Microkhim” denied information from the plot. The company’s plant is located in the territory of the Luhansk region temporarily occupied by the russians. Due to active hostilities, production stopped on February 24.
“The Microkhim company is an innovative Ukrainian pharmaceutical company with 30 years of experience in the market. The company’s product portfolio is represented in 4 therapeutic groups: cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology and traumatology. Our drugs and production meet all international certification standards,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.
This fake was also denied by the head of the Luhansk OVA, Serhii Haidai. He pointed out that over the past three years, 22 new medicinal products were registered at the enterprise, the first Ukrainian generic based on Favipiravir was developed and registered in the conditions of the pandemic for the treatment of the disease caused by the coronavirus infection.
As proof that Microkhim was conducting experiments, the story shows a folder of contracts with volunteers for 2018. And a few files from this folder: copies of men’s and women’s passports, a certificate of residence registration issued by the CNAP (Administrative Service Centre) of the Rubizhne City Council, as well as allegedly one of the contracts on participation in the test. It is noteworthy that they do not show the front, but only the reverse side of the contract, where the details of the parties are written and there are no details about the subject of the contract, only “conducting a clinical trial” is mentioned. The contract on the video is scrolled so quickly that it is impossible to read its text.
A freeze-frame from a fake story. Signed folder “Contracts with volunteers, 2018”
A document from the video that mentions “conducting a clinical trial”
However, even if the plot shows real documents and contracts found on the territory of “Microkhim”, this in no way proves that the company’s plant is a “biolaboratory” where “experiments” were conducted on people.
Conducting clinical trials of medicinal products in Ukraine is legal and exclusively voluntary. The Law “On Medicinal Products” states that full-aged (except for the study of drugs for minors) legally competent individuals can participate in clinical trials, for which their written consent is required. In addition, the customer of clinical trials of drugs is obliged to conclude a contract on life and health insurance of the volunteer before the start of clinical trials. Therefore, the presence of contracts such as those shown in the video may indicate just legal and voluntary testing.
In addition, companies can obtain permission to conduct clinical research in Ukraine only if there are positive conclusions after a preclinical study of the effectiveness and safety of the drugs, as well as convincing data that the risk of side effects of the drugs will be significantly lower than the expected positive effect. Therefore, the company that received permission to conduct tests could not test “dangerous substances” on volunteers, as it is claimed in the fake story.
Second, “Nalbuphine” is not a “combat drug”, but an analgesic drug that is widely used for pain syndrome, as an additional tool for anesthesia, in the postoperative period, and even as analgesia during childbirth.
Indeed, since 2014, “Nalbuphine” has been used as a pain reliever in the first-aid kits of the Ukrainian military.
The story mentions several fakes about “Nalbuphine”, in particular that it is not registered in Ukraine and is not available on the “civilian market”. Firstly, the drug “Nalbuphine” is registered in Ukraine. It can be found in the State Register of Medicines. Among the manufacturers of the drug, LLC RESEARH AND PRODUCTION “MICROKHIM” is indeed indicated. It can be purchased at pharmacies with a prescription.
Secondly, the fake story indicates that the drug is “dangerous because it is very quickly addictive”, comparing it to morphine. This is not true: unlike morphine, “Nalbuphine” has a low addiction potential.
russian media systematically generate fakes about the so-called “combat drugs” for the soldiers of the Armed Forces. Even earlier, the Center for Countering Disinformation of the National Security and Defense Council wrote about the fake of russian mass media, as if “in the trenches in Rubizhne, combat psychotropic drugs were found, which make “universal soldiers” out of Ukrainian fighters.”
The weekly analytical review provides insight into public health narratives. Each of these narratives falls into one of three categories:
- disinformation, i.e., deliberate dissemination of false information;
- misinformation, i.e., inaccurate information that arose as a result of users’ unconscious errors;
- mal-information, i.e., accurate information used to harm a person, organization, or country.
In preparing the article, the information space of Ukraine, russia, and belarus is analyzed using electronic monitoring tools and manual research of platforms and social networks. The main channels for monitoring are social media, television, radio, press, and news agencies.
Disclaimer: This information piece was produced with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided on behalf of the people of the United States of America, and with the support of the United Kingdom Government’s Good Governance Fund program on behalf of the people of Great Britain. This article’s content is the sole responsibility of Deloitte Consulting under contract #72012118C00001. It does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, U.K. aid, or the United Kingdom Government.
The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations