Public Health Fakes: In Mariupol, illegal experiments were conducted on children. Issue 98

Public Health Fakes: In Mariupol, illegal experiments were conducted on children. Issue #98

Photo: pexels.com / jianfeng lai
16 February 2024
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The Kremlin’s Telegram channels continue to distort articles from foreign publications and speculate on the topic of birth rates in Ukraine. For example, the media outlet The Times allegedly wrote that the decline in birth rates in Ukraine depends not so much on Russia’s invasion as on distrust of the government during pregnancy planning. Additionally, Russians invent new “evidence” of the existence of so-called biolabs and publish “sensational” stories about their supposed past activities in Mariupol.

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: Ukrainian doctors illegally tested drugs on residents of Mariupol to enrich Western corporations

Russian propaganda media filmed stories from City Hospital No. 7 in the temporarily occupied Mariupol. In the videos, pseudo-journalists claimed that allegedly:

  • from 2006 to 2016, Ukrainian doctors in the city collected biomaterials from residents, which they then passed on to biolaboratories of foreign multinational companies and US military special laboratories. They claimed that the blood of infants was particularly valuable;
  • new drugs were tested on residents of Mariupol, violating the Geneva Conventions. In this way, corporations profited, exploiting countries with low-income levels;
  • slavic blood was used to develop new types of biological weapons, leading to epidemics and pandemics worldwide. In this way, the United States sought to exterminate Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians.

What’s the reality?

Most of the “evidence” presented in the video does not confirm but refutes the claims spread by propagandists. 

For example, the video showed the trial code name SB4-G31-RA, the name of the company, and the country where the sponsoring organization is located — Samsung Bioepis Co. Ltd, South Korea. We found a study conducted from May 2013 to November 2014 using this information. It is not a secret. Within the study, experts assessed the effectiveness and safety of the drug for patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis compared to another drug, Enbrel. Patients received weekly subcutaneous injections. Importantly, children did not participate in the study; participants were aged 18 and above. Over 100 volunteers from Ukraine participated in the study, and there were also participants from several European Union countries.

Screenshots of the trial name, the name, and the country location of the sponsoring organization from the RT video

Clinical trials of drugs are neither new nor illegal. All trials approved by EU countries have code names, which can be found on the European Union Clinical Trials Register website. Trials of drugs conducted in Ukraine can be checked on the website of the State Expert Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine using several parameters, including the trial code, the location of its conduct, the name of the drug, and so on. Clinical trials are primarily conducted not to “enrich corporations” but to test the effectiveness of the invented medications. If successful, they are put into mass production. In this way, these drugs help not only the trial participants but also people worldwide.

Moreover, all clinical trials, including this one, adhere to strict protocols. Specifically, the European Union Register notes that the Independent Ethics Committee (IEC) and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviewed and approved the protocols of the SB4-G31-RA study at each research center. As indicated, the research was conducted in accordance with the ethical principles of the Helsinki Declaration (2008) andthe national legislation of the participating countries. Each patient provided informed consent and received a verbal explanation of the nature and purpose of the study. The IEC and IRB reviewed and approved the consent documents signed by the study participants.

Also, the information suggesting that corporations were profiting from low-income countries in this way is untrue. Besides Ukraine, people from nine other countries participated in the study, including the United Kingdom, South Korea, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Bulgaria, which, according to World Bank data, are high-income or above-average-income countries. In total, nearly 600 people participated in the study from all countries.

Moreover, there is no confirmation of the information about “mass blood collection from infants.” In the video, only tubes with blood in a bag are shown, most of which are not labeled. Through reverse image search, we found that the picture with blood tubes was actually taken in 2021, not in Ukraine, but in Moscow. At that time, the media reported that the blood belonged to the company “Gemotest,” whose employees, for unknown reasons, dumped biomaterials on the road.

Photo of flasks with blood on the street in Moscow, 2021

Additionally, the video claims that patients were not informed about the risks involved in such studies to their health, and all informed consent forms were filled out in the handwriting of one person and did not have patients’ signatures. Although the video showed only one sample of “informed consent” with blurred personal data of the “patient,” so the propagandists could easily fabricate such a form.

Furthermore, in Ukraine, there is a standard list of points that must be included in a patient’s informed consent during a clinical trial. This includes the purpose of the study, possible side effects and risks, compensations and/or treatments that the participant may receive in case of harm to their health, the method of conducting the clinical trial procedure, and so on. Participation in such studies is strictly voluntary.

A screenshot of the patient’s informed consent shown in the propaganda video

Pseudo-journalists also claimed that untested drugs such as “Infliximab” and “Canakinumab” were tested on people. However, in reality, “Infliximab” for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis was approved in the United States and the European Union in 1999. “Canakinumab” for the treatment of gouty arthritis was approved in the United States in 2011 and in the EU in 2013. And drugs with these active substances are available for sale in Ukraine.

Propagandists attempted to prove that every item in the hospital was created by the USA and transferred to Ukraine for conducting dangerous experiments. Thus, to the background music intended to amplify fear in the viewer, they showed a container labeled “danger.” Using the number 3291 indicated on it, we found out that it is a container for storing, transporting, and disposing of biological waste (used needles, blades, syringes, etc.). Such containers can also be purchased from Russian online stores. Therefore, there is nothing surprising about the presence of such a container in the hospital; it is not evidence of the claims made by the propagandists.

1. Screenshot from a propaganda video; 2. Container for storage and disposal of bio-waste

The information alleging that the USA seeks to develop bioweapons leading to epidemics to exterminate Slavic people sounds absurd. Outbreaks of diseases that exist today are dangerous to people of all races. Moreover, even in theory, creating a disease that would affect only people of a certain ethnic group is impossible because all humans are genetically similar. Previously, we debunked the fake claiming that America collects DNA samples from Ukrainian military personnel to eradicate all Slavs.

Disinformation: In Ukraine, the birth rate is declining due to the distrust of Ukrainians towards the government during pregnancy planning

The Kremlin Telegram channels are trying to divert attention from their army’s unprovoked invasion by claiming that the decline in the birth rate in Ukraine is directly related to distrust of the government and the lack of prospects in the country. This is supposedly written by the British publication The Times. Propagandists add that Ukraine is adopting LGBT values, which decrease birth rates, and overall this is “genocide” against Ukrainians.

What’s the reality?

On January 30, 2024, The Times indeed published an article about the low birth rates in Ukraine. Referring to The Times’ analytical center, it notes that Ukraine has the lowest birth rate in the world, averaging 0.7 children per woman.

In reality, the decline in birth rates in Ukraine was observed even before the full-scale invasion. For example, in 2019, the fertility rate was 1.2 children per woman. However, by 2021, this rate had increased to 1.6 and began to decline again after 2022. According to Svitlana Aksonova, a leading researcher at the Institute of Demography, the decline in birth rates in Ukraine was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which approximately 86,000 people died in 2021 alone. Moreover, in 2021, most EU countries experienced a compensatory increase in birth rates, whereas this did not occur in Ukraine.

To measure birth rates, three main indicators are commonly used: the general fertility rate, which measures the total number of children born per thousand population, the fertility rate (average number of children a woman can bear during her lifetime), and the overall indicator of all children born over a certain period of time. The decline in birth rates is not unique to Ukraine but is common in most countries worldwide. According to analysts from the Our World in Data project, fifty years ago, on average, one woman had five children. However, by 2019, this number had halved. Primarily, this is associated with the expansion of rights and opportunities for women, increased costs of raising children, and lower child mortality rates. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs report indicates that in 2024, the global fertility rate will remain at 2.3 children per woman. However, by 2050, it may drop to 2.1.

In 2023, over 187,000 children were born in Ukraine. The highest birth rates were recorded in Kyiv, Lviv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Source: Ministry of Justice of Ukraine

Among the factors currently affecting the decline in birth rates in Ukraine, we can highlight:

  • the killing of civilian residents by Russians and systematic shelling;
  • migration of Ukrainians abroad (including pregnant women) due to Russian aggression;
  • the abduction of Ukrainians by Russia in temporarily occupied territories.

The author of The Times article also clearly points out the first two points as reasons for the decline in birth rates in Ukraine. There are no mentions of distrust of the government in planning pregnancies in the article. Therefore, by manipulating articles from Western media, the Russians once again attempt to conceal their crimes.

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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