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Antifake

“A train car of Ukrainian hearts”: Russia’s MFA spokeswoman Maria Zakharova comes up with chilling fake about organ trafficking in Ukraine

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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently penned an article in Rossiyskaya Gazeta — the official newspaper of the Russian government — titled “World leader of illegal transplantation: Organs traded both online and offline in Ukraine.”

Part of the article states the following:

“It has long been known that Ukraine has become one of the world leaders of illegal organ transplants. Scandals related to the illegal removal of organs from the bodies of dead people began to appear since the late 1990s, which was caused by the deteriorating socio-economic situation in the country.

Since the early 2000s, this problem began to scale up. The armed coup d'état in Kyiv in February 2014 and the ensuing conflict in Donbas gave additional impetus to this process. In 2014, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] noted that bodies of people with removed internal organs had been found in mass graves in areas of hostilities, most likely the victims of illegal transplanters. [...]

There is evidence that in June 2023, representatives of the Ministry of Health of one of the NATO countries agreed with the Ukrainian side on the delivery of a refrigerator car with human organs and body parts that are most often used in transplantology. These are eye corneas, some bones, connective tissues, hearts and livers.”

Zakharova's piece adds to the line of fabricated essays from Kremlin propagandists concerning illicit transplant operations in Ukraine. However, even among these similar articles, it distinguishes itself with an air of audacity. For example, in 2014, the OSCE stated the exact opposite of Zakharova's claims:

“Following a report by Stimme Russlands Radio (“The OSCE stumbles upon illegal transplantation in Ukraine”) on 1 October 2014, alleging that ‘The OSCE Special Representative to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, Madina Jarbussynova, confirmed this information on Ukrainian television and explained that the situation required a thorough investigation by international experts.’ and a documentary broadcast by NTV channel on 5 October 2014, stating that ‘the OSCE Special Representative to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, Madina Jarbussynova, speculated that the organs had been removed for sale.’, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings wishes to make the following statement:
During the September session of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), two Russian NGOs cited reports about the possible removal and sale of human organs in Eastern Ukraine. In response to this, the Ukrainian government representative stated that these allegations would be investigated as soon as it becomes possible to gain greater access to the region.
Ambassador Jarbussynova cited this in her interview with Ukraine 112 television on Monday 29 September 2014. Her remarks were subsequently taken out of context in the Russian media.
The OSCE does not possess any evidence regarding possible organ harvesting in Eastern Ukraine. The OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings therefore does not confirm that any illegal organ transplantation has taken place in Ukraine, nor would she speculate on such accusations. Furthermore, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has to date seen no evidence of organ trafficking in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

The story about a refrigerated train car intended for the transportation of human organs was spread by the Telegram channel Mash on August 4. Its post said:

“According to our information, in June 2023, representatives of the Turkish Ministry of Health agreed with the Ukrainian side on the delivery of a refrigerator car with human organs and body parts that are most often used in transplantology to Istanbul. These are eye corneas, some bones, connective tissues, hearts and livers.
According to our source, the deal was officially approved by the medical department from the Turkish side. On the Ukrainian side, private individuals worked with the assistance of representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Office of the President.”

Only someone unfamiliar with transplantology could invent such a narrative. Organs cannot be stored for extended periods — storage is limited to very short spans of time. For instance, a liver can be preserved from 9 to 12 hours, while a heart can last only 6 hours. This means that a donor organ has to be quickly transported to the medical facility where a patient is awaiting the transplant. Waiting to accumulate enough organs to fill a train car makes no sense. Even if the organs were to be dispatched from Ukraine immediately, the journey through Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria would take nearly a day due to unavoidable stops, including the need to address the differing railroad gauges between Ukraine and Turkey. the organs would either be shifted to a different train at the border station or the original train would have to change its wheel bogies to keep moving. Worldwide, the primary way to move donor organs across long distances is by air.

As to the transplantation of donor bone or connective tissue, the method of allogenic transplantation, which involves using donor tissue, is rarely employed. Medical practitioners more commonly use either the patient's own tissue (autologous transplantation), synthetic grafts, or occasionally animal bone tissue.

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