This week, Russian resources actively spread fake news on one of their favorite propaganda topics — the activities of so-called “black transplantologists” in Ukraine. In the first case, they cited the words of Vira Vayiman, who posed herself as an observer from the OSCE mission. The woman claimed that Ukrainian commanders were killing children and selling their organs to the EU under the guise of “grain exports.” In the second case, propagandists reported that desperate deputies introduced a bill to the Verkhovna Rada in an attempt to somehow stop the work of “black transplantologists.”
With the support of the USAID Health Reform Support project, VoxCheck analyzes and refutes public health narratives spread in the information space of Ukraine, Belarus, and russia on a weekly basis.
Disinformation: Ukraine sold children’s organs to EU countries — an OSCE observer
Russian media once again spread false claims about the so-called “black transplantology” in Ukraine. To give more legitimacy to their words, propagandists involve “international experts.” In particular, a former “observer” of the UN humanitarian monitoring mission, Vira Vayiman, claimed that she was part of the OSCE from 2019 to 2021, gathering information about the activities of “underground laboratories.” According to her, Ukrainian commanders were killing children and selling their organs to the EU under the guise of “grain exports.”
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What’s the reality?
The OSCE is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Special Monitoring Mission started operating in Ukraine on March 21, 2014, and concluded its activities on March 31, 2022. However, we did not find any mention of the “observer” Vira Vayiman on the OSCE website in the archive section of daily reports or in the list of mission coordinators in Ukraine, nor on the organization’s social media pages.
Using the PimEyes service, which conducts a search for people on the internet, and reverse searching on the banned in Ukraine network Yandex Images, we found a woman from this interview. Currently, Vira’s last name is Nikulina, whereas Vayiman is her maiden name.
In 2013, Russian media mentioned that Nikulina worked as the head of the Youth Chamber at the Duma in the Russian city of Vladivostok. In 2019, propagandists write about Nikulina’s visit as a member of the Primorsk regional branch of the Russian organization “Combat Brotherhood” to the temporarily occupied Crimea and Donetsk. Media also state that in the same year, Vira Nikulina became part of the OSCE group dealing with education in conflict zones and active military operations. However, there is no information to support the claim that Nikulina was an OSCE observer.
Moreover, in her previous interview with PrimaMedia in 2019, she never mentioned her supposed role as an OSCE observer. Instead, in July 2022, Vayiman spread typical Kremlin narratives about the so-called “fascism” in Ukraine and “organ trafficking.” On her personal page on the social network “VKontakte,” several posts can be seen supporting the Russian aggressor.
Photo from the Vkontakte page of Vira Nikulina (Vayiman) with Russian awards, August 13, 2022
Vayiman’s post in support of Russian aggression in Ukraine, August 14, 2022
Propagandist videos and information about the so-called “black transplantology” do not withstand any criticism. The authors of the European External Action Service’s EUvsDisinfo project emphasize that the information from Russia regarding human trafficking is based solely on assumptions. There is no evidence or testimony to support the Russian claims.
Mostly, Russia accuses Ukraine of actions that it is actually engaging in. For example, the U.S. report on human trafficking for the year 2023 mentions that Russia is not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking. Additionally, Russia has been classified as a Tier 3 country, which means it does not meet the minimum standards set by the U.S. for combating human trafficking and may be subject to sanctions. On the other hand, Ukraine is listed as a Tier 2 country, which means the government is not fully compliant with the standards but is making significant efforts to address human trafficking.
Disinformation: A draft law was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, which should at least somehow stop “black transplant specialists”
Information is being spread on the internet claiming that a draft law has been introduced to the Verkhovna Rada to ban the transplantation of organs from deceased soldiers in an attempt to somehow stop the activities of “black transplantologists.” The authors claim that transplantologists have become so audacious that members of parliament were forced to propose this bill, despite the obvious reputational damage it may cause to the country.
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What’s the reality?
On July 12, 2023, deputies from the “Servant of the People” and “European Solidarity” factions submitted draft law №9482 to the Verkhovna Rada, proposing amendments to the laws “On State Financial Guarantees for Medical Services for the Population” and “On the Application of Transplantation of Anatomical Materials to Humans.” Specifically, they believe that changes should be made to paragraph 4 of Article 17 of the law on transplantation, prohibiting the retrieval of organs from servicemen who died during military operations or in “certain areas where martial law is in effect.”
The current law states that organ transplantation is prohibited for military personnel who died as a result of conducting an anti-terrorist operation and other military actions.
As stated by the General Director of the Ukrainian Transplant Coordination Center, Dmytro Koval, after February 24, 2022,the organs of both military and civilian individuals who died in combat were not used for transplantation, regardless of the region in which they were located. Vasyl Strilka, the General Director of the Directorate of High-Tech Medical Care and Innovations at the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, also pointed out that this rule applies to all military personnel who died in the conflict zone.
The politicians who submitted the draft law explained that it is necessary to update the existing law according to new circumstances and extend the ban to areas in Ukraine where martial law is in effect. In essence, they aim to formalize the norms that are already de facto in place in Ukraine.
Screenshot of the comparative table of the current law (left) and the proposed changes (right)
In addition, the deputies justified their decision by stating that inaccuracies in the current law could be used by Russian media to create fakes and manipulations. According to the authors, this could lead to a worsening of the public’s perception of voluntary organ donation.
The spread of fakes about “black transplantology” in Ukraine has been promoted by Russians for several years. However, after the start of Russia’s full-scale aggression in February 2022, Russian media began to more actively disseminate disinformation about the “illegal harvesting of organs” from Ukrainian military personnel.
In previous issues, we debunked the fake claiming that the Ukrainian military witnessed the work of “black transplantologists” on the front lines.
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. This article’s content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, is the sole responsibility of Deloitte Consulting under contract #72012118C00001.
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