Russia's Foreign Ministry has accused Ukraine of being heavily involved in organ trafficking, according to an article written by the ministry's spokesperson Maria Zakharova in the Russian news outlet Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
This is a claim Zakharova and other Russian officials have repeatedly made over the course of the Ukraine-Russia War.
There is currently nothing substantiating these claims, but allegations of possible Ukrainian involvement in similar substances go back almost 20 years.
Why is Russia accusing Ukraine of organ trafficking?
According to Zakharova's article, the alleged "scandals" of illegal organ trafficking started in the late 1990s, then skyrocketed in the early 2000s and in 2014, accusing Ukrainians of looting internal organs from mass graves.
Zakharova says that Ukraine's laws facilitate this illicit practice, which supposedly continues over the course of the war, adding that this extends to Ukraine's own military, with soldiers' hearts, kidneys, liver, and more being on sale anywhere from €5,000 to €25,000 depending on the organ.
In addition, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson made similar claims back in May.
"Since the late 90s, there have been media reports that low-income Ukrainians were forced to sell their internal organs in order to make a living and there was information on illegal harvesting of biological materials from corpses," Zakharova said at the time, according to Russia's TASS news agency.
In late April, former Russian police and Interpol official Vladimir Ovchinsky told the Moskovskij Komsomolets news outlet that not only does Ukraine harvest organs from Russian soldiers and corpses, but also from innocent and unsuspecting Ukrainian civilians, to be shipped out to special "workshops" in Turkey, India, South Korea, and Israel.
At the time, Israel's Foreign Ministry criticized these claims, writing: "We consider the attempts to tarnish Israel with such baseless atrocity publications very severe" and bringing up the issue with the Russian government, Ynet reported.
Has Ukraine ever been involved in illegal organ harvesting?
It is true that there have been some allegations that Ukraine has been involved in actions similar to illegal organ harvesting. The most notable of these allegations came from the mid-2000s, saying that healthy newborn babies were killed in Ukraine so they could be harvested for stem cells, as the BBC reported back in 2006. These allegations were sufficient enough that the European Parliament had been asked with looking into this on multiple occasions.
In addition, in 2010, 12 people, including some Israelis, were arrested in Ukraine for organ trafficking.
However, that has nothing to do with Russia's accusations. By contrast, others have accused Russia of engaging in a disinformation campaign.
Back in April 2022, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), a Canadian foreign intelligence agency, issued a rare public warning that Russia has been falsely claiming that Ukraine has been harvesting organs from dead soldiers and children.
In addition, Ukraine also has a lack of accessible organ donation and transplants to begin with, with patients who needed a transplant having to travel abroad to receive a transplant.
This is such a severe problem that, according to NPR, Ukrainian doctors were sent to Massachusetts General Hospital in late 2022 for crash courses in organ transplants to make it more accessible for Ukrainians amid the ongoing war.