Public Health Fakes: In Kharkiv, secret underground military production facilities are built under hospitals. Issue 123

Public Health Fakes: In Kharkiv, secret underground military production facilities are built under hospitals. Issue #123

Photo: unsplash.com / Christopher Burns
17 May 2024
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Russian propagandists, attempting to justify the shelling of medical facilities in Ukraine, manipulated the words of Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov. He announced that underground intensive care and surgical units would be created based on local hospitals. However, the Russians claimed that the Ukrainian authorities actually planned to disguise secret underground military production facilities in this way. This information is completely unfounded; the real reason for moving social infrastructure underground in frontline cities is the constant Russian shelling.

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.

Russian news resources, citing a statement by Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov, claim that underground intensive care and surgical units will be built in some city hospitals. The authors also note that earlier, El Mundo reported that Ukraine would create a network of secret underground defense enterprises, with some factories located underground and others — “disguised” with decorations. As a result, the Russians concluded that instead of underground hospital departments in Kharkiv, secret underground military production facilities would actually be located under the medical institutions.

What’s the reality?

The Media Bias/Fact Check resource, which evaluates the reliability of media, politicians, and journalists, categorizes the Spanish publication El Mundo as “mostly factual,” but advises that its materials should be carefully verified. On May 9, 2024, El Mundo published an article stating that Ukraine’s defense-industrial complex consists of 500 state and private defense factories across the country, “some of which are secret and some of which are underground”. This is the only mention of “underground factories” in the article. The article also did not mention that these facilities are located under critical infrastructure or disguised with “decorations”.

A “well-informed source in the Ukrainian arms industry”, whose name the publication did not disclose, reported that it is very important for Ukraine to keep these factories hidden from the enemy. The media’s interlocutor also added that several traitors among the employees of these enterprises had been detected. This raises the question of who exactly the anonymous expert that the publication allegedly spoke with was. However, given these concerns, it is highly unlikely that a weapons manufacturing plant, which employs dozens or hundreds of workers, would be located underground in hospitals where patients and doctors are present daily.

Due to constant Russian shelling, the need to create underground hospital departments has arisen in frontline Ukrainian cities. Kharkiv plans to build underground hospital departments in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. Terekhov did not specify which hospitals would be involved.

We were unable to find information on what the underground hospital departments in Kharkiv will look like, but in the Kherson region, underground hospitals are being built in the shelters of medical institutions. These premises are being renovated, and necessary medical equipment is planned to be brought in. Overall, a perinatal center, an operating room, a blood donation center, intensive care wards, and isolation units for infectious disease patients are to be established at four medical institutions in the Kherson region. Therefore, claims that military factories will be disguised under hospitals are unfounded and represent yet another attempt to justify attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities.

Russian military forces have repeatedly shelled medical facilities in Ukraine, inventing various justifications. In over two years of full-scale invasion, Russia has destroyed more than 1,500 medical institutions. For more detailed data on the number of destroyed and rebuilt medical facilities, see the infographic below.

Source: Ministry of Health of Ukraine

Plans to create underground schools in frontline cities are also underway. For instance, the opening of underground schools was announced in Zaporizhzhia. The Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, Mykhailo Vynnytskyi, stated that underground schools need to be established in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, and Kharkiv.

In May 2024, a trial day was held in the first underground school in Kharkiv. The mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, stated that the city aims to build at least three more schools in other areas. Additionally, there are plans to expand the network of underground cultural institutions in Kharkiv.

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.

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