Public Health Fakes: Radioactive substances were brought to Chornomorsk for the preparation of provocations. Issue #15

Public Health Fakes: Radioactive substances were brought to Chornomorsk for the preparation of provocations. Issue #15

Photo: / belchonock
3 March 2023

In the new issue, we debunk the fake that a shipment of radioactive substances was brought into the Odesa port, from which the workers received radiation. A fake about black transplants has already become traditional for monitoring disinformation — this time, the Russian media invented that organs were removed from the Ukrainian military right in the field in a matter of minutes and sent to Western countries.

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: Radioactive substances were brought to Ukraine to prepare provocations against the Russian Federation

At the end of February, information began to be spread online about the alleged preparation of a large-scale provocation by Kyiv to accuse the Russian Federation of “gross violation” of the Convention on Nuclear Safety requirements. To do this, barrels with radioactive substances were brought to the Odesa port of Chornomorsk, as a result of which port workers received radioactive exposure.

What’s the reality?

The spokesman of the head of the Odesa regional military administration, Serhii Bratchuk, debunked the information. He reminded that excessive emotionality of the news text and lack of reliable information about the source are signs of a fake. In addition, there is no confirmation in official sources and reliable Ukrainian mass media.

In the Odesa region, in particular in the city of Chornomorsk, regular radiation monitoring and dosimetric control are carried out by the Odesa Regional Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. As of February 20 (information about the “arrival of a secret cargo” began to be distributed on February 19), the radiation background both in Chornomorsk and in the Odesa region, in general, is normal. No deviations were recorded on February 21, 23, and 24.

In order to accuse the Russian Federation of violating the requirements of the Convention on Nuclear Safety, it is not necessary to arrange additional provocations. It violated international norms when it unleashed hostilities on the territory of the country with the nuclear power plant. For example, on February 18, the threat of a Russian missile hitting the nuclear reactor was recorded at the South Ukrainian NPP when two enemy cruise missiles flew dangerously close to the nuclear facility in the direction of Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast.

The danger was also caused by the power outage of nuclear power plants as a result of rocket attacks on the energy infrastructure. During the occupation, the power plant was completely shut down three times: on August 25, October 2, and November 2. Power units No. 5 and No. 6 are regularly disconnected from the power grid due to shelling and operate on diesel generators. In addition, the Russian army stationed multiple rocket launchers and other military weapons on the territory of the ZNPP, and the arsenal is constantly updated. For example, on December 8, Energoatom reported that the Russians had placed several Grad rocket launchers near the site of the station’s dry spent nuclear fuel storage facility.

On February 21, the Russian Federation suspended its participation in the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), the last version of which the Russian Federation and the USA signed in 2010 and the last time it was extended in 2021 for 5 years. The treaty provides for limiting the number of nuclear warheads and carriers of nuclear weapons. As Pavlo Aksionov, the BBC’s arms correspondent, explained, the termination of the treaty will not lead to the immediate start of a nuclear arms race. However, this threatens that the parties will cease to control each other: each side will plan the development of its own nuclear forces and develop doctrines based on its own ideas about the nuclear arsenal of a potential adversary.

Disinformation: In Ukraine, organs are transplanted in “field conditions”

Also, the Russian mass media stated that “black transplantology” is allegedly widespread in Ukraine. In particular, the reports indicate that kidney extraction takes no more than 10 minutes in “field conditions” and brings up to $30,000 on the black market. In addition, Elizabeth Debriuk, the head of the “humanitarian mission” at the Armed Forces of Ukraine, works as a “black transplant specialist” on the front line; and then the organs of the Ukrainian military are supplied to Europe and the USA.

What’s the reality?

First, there is no so-called “black transplantology” in Ukraine. As the Ministry of Health of Ukraine explained, more than 100 doctors may be involved in an organ transplant operation. In addition, there should be special equipment for further storage of organs. That is, it is impossible to conduct an operation in “field conditions”.

The author of the publication writes that Ukraine allegedly delivers organs of the Ukrainian military to Europe and the USA. However, it is not so easy to do this because the suitability of organs is limited in time. The heart and lungs remain viable outside the body for only 4–6 hours, the liver for 12–15 hours, and the kidneys for 36–48 hours.

Second, the thesis that removing a kidney takes no more than 10 minutes is false. In fact, the operation to remove a kidney takes almost 45 minutes on average, not 10, as reported by the Russian media. An important factor is that posthumous donors cannot be servicemen and civilians who died as a result of hostilities. In most cases, posthumous donors are patients who died due to cerebrovascular accident.

Before transplanting an organ from a deceased person, a doctor must confirm brain death. In addition, for organ transplantation, the patient must give consent for donation. If the patient has not expressed his wishes regarding donation during his lifetime, the patient’s relative can give consent.

Source: Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Law of Ukraine on Transplantation, US Health Resources and Services Administration 

As an example of “black transplantology” in Ukraine, the Russian media cite the activities of Elizabeth Debriuk, who allegedly heads the “humanitarian mission” of emergency aid and resuscitation at the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, we have not found any reports from Ukrainian representatives or media about Debriuk’s activities. Also, there is no confirmation of information that, allegedly, the price for a living soldier or a dying soldier is $150-200.

The article mentions the film “With My Own Eyes”, which was shown on Moldovan TV channels. In particular, the film tells the story of a Ukrainian soldier who is being treated for infection with Ukrainian “experimental” drugs in Germany. This allegedly proves that there is a “black market for organs” in Ukraine. However, we did not find any mention of the film “With My Own Eyes” on the page of the Moldovan TV channel TVC21 and on the Realitatea website.

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