This time, propagandists are spreading false claims about the activities of “U.S. military-biological laboratories” in Ukraine again. They claim that local authorities in Odesa are destroying traces of dangerous substances from the activities of military-biological laboratories. At the same time, Kremlin mouthpieces talk about “child trafficking” in Ukraine. Supposedly, Ukrainian children from frontline areas are actually being taken to Europe for “sale” under the guise of rehabilitation. However, the Russians rely on rumors in both cases and do not provide real evidence.
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: In Odesa, the authorities are destroying traces of US military-biological laboratories
Users, citing the words of an anonymous resident of Odesa, are spreading information that a cemetery in Odesa was used for the disposal of hazardous waste related to the activities of U.S. military-biological laboratories. The authors of the post claim that this was discovered during the disposal of 147 tons of hazardous waste that had accumulated due to a ship sinking near Odesa in 1979, which was carrying dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) on board. The post states that this cemetery has been used for the past few years. Currently, local authorities have decided to destroy the traces of their activities.
Screenshot of the post
What’s the reality?
Through a reverse image search on Google Images, we found information about the disposal of 147 tons of DDT near Odesa, and the work began on October 20, 2023. As explained by the director of the Department of Ecology of the Odesa Regional State Administration, Iryna Shatokhina, funds were allocated from the local budget for the elimination of hazardous substances out of concern that Russian shelling could lead to chemicals entering the water and soil.
Shatokhina also added that at the time of the storage facility’s opening, the bags containing chemicals were on the verge of depressurization. By the end of the year, experts from “UkrEcoProm” plan to sort and incinerate the waste using a special technology.
In 1972, the ship “Mozdok” with 900 tons of DDT on board sank in the Odesa Bay. Two years later, near the village of Altestove, located on the shore of the Khadzhibey Lyman, a storage facility was built. The DDT was preserved in concrete bunkers. In 2012, most of the chemicals were disposed of, but due to a lack of funding, 147 tons of waste continued to be stored in the facility. These toxic substances were placed in bags, sealed with tape, and covered with soil. Local residents could smell the odor, and the chemicals seeped into the soil, contaminating the Khadzhibey Lyman.
The issue of disposing of the remnants of chemicals has been raised before, but it was only in 2023 that funds were allocated from the budget and work began. Therefore, the burial site was closed for objective reasons, and there is no evidence, apart from the words of an anonymous “local resident of Odesa,” that the chemical storage facility was used in recent years.
Russian media tirelessly spread fakes about American biolabs in Ukraine and discredit the Biological Threat Reduction Program, in which Ukraine has been participating since 2005, and of which Russia was a participant until 2014. The program operates within the framework of the overall Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. As part of the U.S. subprogram, 46 laboratories were indeed modernized, but not for the development of dangerous viruses, but rather to prevent the spread of diseases through timely detection and reporting of infectious outbreaks.
Previously, we debunked the fake that an American television channel confirmed the existence of biolabs in Ukraine.
Disinformation: Children from the frontline territories of Ukraine are taken for sale abroad, not for rehabilitation
Kremlin propagandists are once again claiming that the Ukrainian government is “selling” children abroad for adoption or black-market organ transplants. Allegedly 8 cases of child trafficking have been discovered, with another 40 cases under investigation. The posts also add that Ukrainian officials are organizing the forced evacuation of children and providing cover for the owners of orphanages who are allegedly “selling” orphans to EU countries.
Screenshot of the post
What’s the reality?
The narrative about “black transplantology” is a component of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign. Every time, propagandists invent new “evidence” to scare people and discredit Ukraine on the international stage. In reality, all claims about “black transplantology” are built on fiction, not genuine facts.
In general, people with burn and mine-explosion injuries, adults with severe illnesses, and children with pathologies are sent abroad for rehabilitation and treatment. Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, over 4,000 Ukrainians have been sent for treatment abroad, including 650 children with injuries and oncological diseases. Medical evacuation and treatment are paid for by the state that hosts the patient.
Source: Ministry of Health of Ukraine
Furthermore, Russians manipulate the topic of forced evacuation. On March 7, 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a plan for the forced evacuation of children from active combat zones. However, children are only evacuated accompanied by one of their parents, a person standing in for them, or another legal representative. There is no evidence to support the claim that children are being taken abroad under the guise of “evacuation” or “rehabilitation” for “sale”.
Russia is kidnapping Ukrainian children, taking them to Russia, and forcibly placing them in foster families. Ukraine has officially confirmed the deportation of 20,000 children from Ukraine to Russia. Meanwhile, the authorized representative of Russia for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, claims there are 700,000 Ukrainian children. The kidnapping of Ukrainian children is recognized and condemned by international organizations. On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova and Putin for war crimes specifically related to the kidnapping of Ukrainian children.
Russians also claim that Ukrainian officials are “covering up” the heads of orphanages who take children abroad. In 2022, there was a case where the “Perlynka” orphanage was suspected of illegally sending 43 Ukrainian orphaned children to Lithuania and having them adopted by foreign families.
However, the children were not adopted into foreign families and negotiations were underway for their return to Ukraine. Elena Martinonene, the head of the communications department of the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office, noted that there have already been several meetings with the authorized representative of the President of Ukraine for children’s rights, the Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, representatives of the Verkhovna Rada, the police, and the Ukrainian Embassy in Lithuania.
Kremlin propagandists once again attempt to discredit the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and international partners who assist children and adults in accessing rehabilitation abroad. The Russians loudly talk about the “sale” of children in Ukraine, but they fail to mention that it is they themselves who are kidnapping children and committing war 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.
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