Human trafficking in Ukraine, an investigative series. Part one: Illegal Organ Harvest
“Every Day We Were Working Like Frankenstein’s Slaves”
by Deborah L. Armstrong
Few things in our world are so horrifying as human trafficking. It’s a worldwide scourge, and according to some reports, Ukraine is one of the worst hot spots for the abduction/kidnapping of people for use in the sex trade or for illegal organ harvest. Even the US State Department admits that “The Government of Ukraine does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” though it claims that Kiev is “making significant efforts to do so.”
Wikipedia even states that “Ukraine is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked transnationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor,” though it does not delve into the terrifying world of black-market organ harvesting.
This topic, however, has been covered in-depth in Russian media, which has reported since at least 2014 about the activities of so-called “black market transplantologists” — foreign doctors who harvest organs from mortally wounded Ukrainian soldiers and from civilians who may, or may not, have given consent.
While news of illegal organ harvesting in Ukraine did trickle into western mainstream media before the Maidan coup, in recent years this horror is dismissed as “Russian disinformation” and mainstream media remains mostly silent on the issue, though it does report about the sex trafficking of Ukrainian women, which is neatly blamed on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In this investigative series, we will explore what Russian media has reported about human trafficking in Ukraine, and you can decide for yourself whether it’s true or just “propaganda” as western media insists.
Organ harvesting in Ukraine — “gift of life” or get-rich-quick scheme?
In early December of 2022, Colonel Vitaly Kiselev of the Lugansk Police in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), told Russian media that a black-market organ harvester from the EU had arrived in the Bakhmut region of Ukraine, where there has been heavy fighting, and therefore, mortally wounded soldiers.
Kiselev told Gazeta.ru that at least one of these people, a Dutch doctor named Elizabeth de Brück was previously in Ukraine, according to an investigation by the LPR, and that she and others in her group harvested organs from Ukrainian soldiers and civilians without their consent, in 2014 and 2015.
You can watch Kiselev’s statement to Russian news media with English subtitles on my YouTube channel.
The video is available to watch below:
Kiselev says that the names of several people, including de Brück, were given to authorities by a former officer of the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) during a confession in 2015. The unidentified man said that he witnessed de Brück and her group removing organs without consent from soldiers, as well as from civilians whose wounds were not life threatening. Other names he provided include John Wesley, Henry Roselfeld and Andrew Milburn, allegedly the founder of Ukraine’s PMC “Mozart” group.
The confession itself is in Russian without subtitles, so I have summarized it here, along with a few translated quotes from the video.
In November of 2014, the unidentified officer says, he and two other members of the SBU were sent to the “Anti-Terrorist Operation zone” (ATO) where they worked with a special medical group which was referred to as the “emergency team.” He and his colleagues had undergone special medical training in Kramatorsk, a city in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast, in what was then eastern Ukraine. Following the training, he says that the SBU officers joined the medical group and were given modern equipment and weapons.
The unidentified officer said they were instructed by a Colonel Mischenko, who told them that their task was to assist and protect the doctors in case a dying soldier wanted to contribute his organs in order to help his family financially, and that this was accepted practice all over the world.
The unnamed officer states, “Our colleague Gennady [Getman] was responsible for getting consent from critically wounded people so their organs were harvested. I was providing protection. For each person, I received $170 USD. First, we sent the wounded to special medical centers created in Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk. All their organs were harvested — including eyes, skin, bones. Everything was sent abroad. I don’t know how much their families were paid and if they were paid at all.”
In January of 2015, the unidentified SBU officer says that a professional “transplantologist” named Elizabeth de Brück arrived from the Netherlands to work with them. He claims that he examined her documents and that was how he got her true name. He says that the Dutch woman completely reformed their working style, directing doctors to remove organs regardless of whether the soldiers agreed or not. She often removed organs herself, he says, taking just seven to ten minutes to remove, pack, and send an organ to Kramatorsk.
Well, fascists always have prided themselves on their efficiency…
The former SBU officer went on to say that the work was especially hard in Debaltsevo when the fighting got rough between Kiev’s nationalist militias and the so-called “Russian separatists” fighting to protect their families and neighbors. The fighting was so fierce that one day, 23 pairs of kidneys were harvested along with spleens and livers. Most of the soldiers killed or wounded came from the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, according to the unnamed officer. Bodies whose organs had been harvested were taken by another special group to a burial place in the direction of Artemovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukrainian). Many of the organs, he says, came from the Debaltsevo cauldron, and his team, and also the generals, made good money.
On February 23, 2015, the anonymous SBU officer and his team returned to Kramatorsk. He says that he knows English and that he overheard Elizabeth (also called “Eliza” or “Elsa”) talking with her “boss” who was praising her and asking her to improve the quality of the work.
She replied, “Yes, Sandra.” The unnamed agent believes that “Sandra” was the wife (Sandra Roelofs, originally from the Netherlands) of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia and head of the Executive Reform Committee of Ukraine, and that she was the leader and organizer of the mission.
The former SBU officer says that “everything changed” after Mikheil Saakashvili visited the ATO. He says he was assigned to accompany the former Georgian leader, who praised the operation and said he would pay them more if they increased the quantity and quality of the organs, which he called “goods.” Saakashvili [a convicted felon] allegedly told him that the organs were helping the families of the deceased and people in Europe and America who were urgently waiting for transplants.
But then everything went to hell, according to the former SBU officer. The buried soldiers were declared “lost” and their families didn’t receive any money. And after a ceasefire was declared, not as many people were dying. But Sandra kept calling, requesting more organs.
While Ukraine was shelling Popasnaya (called Popasna in Ukrainian), a city in the Lugansk region, he claims that kidneys and a spleen were removed from a man and his 12-year-old daughter, who had lost consciousness. Their family name was Lyaschenko, according to the passport in the man’s coat pocket. The mother was wounded in the legs, but when she was brought to the hospital, her organs were removed. The agent discovered that all three were officially declared killed during the shelling, but he knew it was murder, committed by those who were supposed to be “helping.”
He couldn’t bear it any longer and so he submitted an application to be dismissed on the 4th of June, 2015. Col. Mischenko said that he had a special task that needed to be completed first, and after that, the officer would be given leave and promoted to major with a raise in pay. The “special task” turned out to be exhuming bodies in Bakhmut. He says that he worked with a group of people who exhumed 132 corpses. He doesn’t know where the bodies were taken. On June 11th, he was summoned to see General Alexander Radetsky and after he left the general’s office, he was arrested.
“As soon as I left his office I was attacked and taken downstairs. They had an order for my arrest for document forging and suggested I sign a warrant for a treatment course in a mental hospital or I’d be sent to jail. I told them I’d come for this procedure tomorrow and bribed them with $300 USD and 1600 UAH [Ukrainian hryvnia] on the spot, and promised each of them $1,000 more the next day. They took me home so that I paid them each $1,000 extra the same day.”
After paying them off, the unidentified man says that he escaped and hid. He provided information and video records to authorities in the People’s Republics of Donbas. The videos included footage of organ harvesting, operating rooms and exhumations. He also said that he could show them burial grounds in Chasov Yar, in the DPR, where 97 people were buried, 20 of them civilians including children. And in Uglegorsk, where 30 AFU soldiers were buried. He says that he even contacted Wikileaks to tell them about the illegal organ harvesting in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government’s involvement, and the actions of Saakashvili and his wife.
“I know I deserve punishment,” the anonymous man concludes, “but I won’t back down and I’ll keep fighting, and this thing is not over. My colleague Gennady Getman [the one responsible for consent forms] was appointed the head of the special med-group and the murders still go on. Help to stop them!”
The former SBU man is not the only one who claims to have witnessed illegal organ harvesting in Ukraine. A pre-med student from Syria says that he was a member of an organ harvesting team that was also sent there, from overseas.
Anonymous Syrian pre-med student claims he was tricked into illegally harvesting organs in Ukraine to pay his way through med school.
The student, whose identity is also protected, said that his story began in 2009, when he went to the United States to study medicine. After completing his undergraduate degree in 2013, he planned to enroll in medical school but failed the pre-med exam. At the time, there was growing unrest in Syria and his parents could no longer support him financially. He only had a year to make up the exam, so he tried to get a job, only to run into more problems because he had no work visa. If he could not get a work visa, he would be forced to leave the US by the end of 2013 when his student visa expired. You can listen to his testimony here, in heavily accented (and augmented) English with Ukrainian subtitles. I will also summarize it below.
In August of 2013, the Syrian student says he was approached by a man who offered to help him get a job and obtain a work visa. They went for a walk in a park to talk about it. The man told him that there was a “peacekeeping force” which was going to another country, which needed doctors including transplant surgeons.
At first, he refused because he had only completed his pre-med training. But he was told that this was an “internal government order” and that if he cooperated, he would be given copies of all the necessary paperwork as well as a three-month training course, and that once he returned from overseas, he would have a work visa and money in his bank account.
Lured by the prospect of being able to pay his own tuition, he decided to join the “peacekeeping force” which went to Ukraine in 2013. It seemed a logical choice, since he had learned Russian when he was in school in Syria.
His family thought that he had gone to Ukraine as an ordinary doctor, as part of the “peacekeeping force,” and the news said the same thing. But he says that even then, he knew that organ transplants were already a fairly standard operation, and that there was an acute shortage of donor organs worldwide. As promised, he was given special training courses and documents such as a press card identifying himself as a “journalist.” He was only supposed to spend a year in Ukraine, then he planned to return to the US to continue his studies.
He and the other members of the “peacekeeping force” were housed in an apartment near the US Embassy in Kiev. Once per week they were visited by “strange” people in plain clothes who spoke Ukrainian and English. They explained that soon he and the others would be performing operations to remove organs for further treatment of people who were seriously ill, and that these people might be soldiers or civilians. The doctors’ help was needed to save people’s lives, he was told.
Every week they were taken to a small clinic on the outskirts of Kiev. There were no signs to be seen and guards escorted them to the middle of the building. Everything was painted green, the Syrian said. They performed surgeries there, in shifts, and slept there sometimes, too. They were given rooms, “like cheap hotels. Like soldiers’ beds in two tiers.”
This was how it was until May 1st, 2014, when they were roused early in the morning, divided into two units, and told to gather their belongings. They were informed that there was an “emergency call” that they needed to respond to, so they left Kiev that evening and by nightfall they were in Odessa.
Two mobile complexes had been set up to conduct emergency operations, as if there was a natural disaster or a war. His group of doctors was stationed on the outskirts of the city, and another group was sent to the city’s center. He thought it was strange because the streets of Odessa were calm and quiet, and there seemed to be no reason for the city to be prepared for a calamity.
Then, on May 2, everyone was roused early again and told to be ready to receive organs and prepare them for transplantation somewhere else. His group was instructed to receive boxes from the first group in the Odessa city center, and prepare them for transportation.
That day, he says, they worked like “hard laborers” under the sights of machine guns and the shouts of the military. “We had our first fears for our lives and serious suspicions about the reality of what was happening. My eyes saw more organs in one day than I had ever seen in my entire surgical training.”
Of course, now we know about the massacre which took place that day, when rioting alt-right nationalists from Ukraine’s “Right Sektor” group and crazed football fans from Kharkov trapped dozens of people, mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainians, inside the Trade Union Building. At least 48 of them were killed and 300 more were injured. Some were burned alive after the building was set on fire, others were shot or beaten when they tried to escape the flames. Still others were raped and murdered inside the building.
But from where he was standing that day, the Syrian pre-med student couldn’t fathom where the organs were coming from, and why there were so many. The surgeons couldn’t watch the news while they were working, but by late afternoon one of his colleagues said there had been a massacre in town. A war? He didn’t know. The doctors were focused on dealing with the organs. Removing them properly and preparing them for transplant and transportation.
They were rushed, constantly (and literally) under the gun. He says it was obvious why everyone was in a hurry. He knew that there were rules for the removal of organs. A kidney was only supposed to be removed after 30 minutes of the undeniable establishment of clinical death. But the earlier the kidneys are removed, the better they are for transplantation, and kidneys removed from still-living bodies have the best chances of success.
The operating theater was prepared. They smeared iodine on a patient’s breasts, abdomen and groin. Then a cross incision was made on the donor’s stomach, and then, according to plan, the organs were extracted.
Following the nightmarish events in Odessa, the Syrian was coming to the realization that all was not as it had seemed. He and his colleagues had been told that they would work as doctors in the field, but instead, they were pathologists, dissecting corpses of dead soldiers and civilians.
He recalls the name of an important military man — Nalyvaychenko. He says that a group of soldiers was loading boxes of organs into a car and two of the soldiers accidentally dropped their cart. An officer kicked them and shouted that if they ruined even one box, he would give their kidneys to Nalyvaychenko himself!
The nightmare continued after Odessa. On the morning of May 3rd, he says his group arrived in another large settlement, and that their motorcade of three cars continued on between cities at night. Slavyansk, Kramatorsk. And every day, he says, they did the same thing.
“Every day we were working like Frankenstein’s slaves, cutting and removing organs. They were the bodies of soldiers. Right on the streets of towns and villages. Every day, hands covered in blood. It was a scorcher in reality. From morning till night, mutilated bodies and grimaces of horror on the faces of men and women,” he said.
But it wasn’t just soldiers’ bodies, he recalls. Sometimes bodies arrived clean and well-groomed. Civilians. Often shot just once. In the head.
“I thought that was the worst thing a doctor could see. But there was a real nightmare ahead of us,” he continues. “We were part of a conveyor belt for harvesting and transporting human organs.”
When they came to Donetsk, he realized that he was just one cog in an immense machine. “Now we were forced to fulfill the ‘plan.’ Every day we were given a list of things that we had to find on the streets of the city that was on fire. This list included children and pregnant women. Those who refused to fulfill the ‘plan’ were beaten and threatened with becoming donors themselves.”
In the other group, two people went missing during the week. They didn’t come back from the city, or so he was told.
“In Donetsk we were brought to the ‘Laboratory for the Transplantation of Vital Organs.’ In reality, it was a scary 20-square-meter room. It was all in the basement of some building. We were shown an ammonia machine and an iron cabinet with preparations and instruments. The basement was poorly lit, humid, and cold. We walked on planks with dirty water squelching under them. We had three wooden operating tables at our disposal. It was clear that they had been made before we arrived. We operated under the light of ordinary lamps. There was no equipment. All the time a diesel generator was humming and smoking. Heavy machinery was constantly coming over the basement windows of the ‘lab’ and shots and explosions could be heard. We were guarded by four men with machine guns. Our basement was a real biological bank of living organs. We lived in that basement all summer long.”
Life became a blur. They worked and slept in between visits from the military. They were sent on missions to get bodies from the battlefield. They were even sent on missions kept secret from the military.
Then, in August of 2014, “we managed to escape from this hell. We were coming back to the city from the village where we were going to get new organs. There were five people in our car. The driver, two security guards and us two surgeons.” In the car there were also twelve boxes containing organs. “We drove up to the roadblock. Not long ago it was ‘ours.’”
But this roadblock had been taken over by rebel military units, the so-called “Russian separatists” who were fighting against the Ukrainian militias. “We realized this when a car pulled out toward us and started blinking its lights. Our driver was the first to realize what was happening and tried to turn right on the road.”
The soldiers began shooting at them, damaging their car. They stopped near a forest and tried to run away, but the two SBU guards demanded that they bring all 12 boxes with them. “I felt again the threats that I felt in Odessa — that we would become donors of all organs ourselves if the goods were not delivered. That Nalyvaychenko and his mercenaries would find us in an hour, and that we would be killed on the spot if we tried to escape.”
Somehow, they managed to hold on to all 12 boxes and ran towards some bushes. The Syrian says he can’t remember exactly what happened next because there was a firefight and some nearby explosions which apparently knocked him out, “and it was already dark when I came to my senses. I didn’t have any boxes. I came out on the road with my hands up. I had a journalist’s document in my hands. The one that our employers said guaranteed our safety in a foreign country.”
He felt like he had no other choice. He walked toward the checkpoint, hoping his credentials as a “journalist” would somehow get him through unharmed. They interrogated him and took him into custody. He says he still doesn’t know who they were because their uniforms had no insignia. But they sent him to Donetsk where he was interrogated for two days, then placed in a cell with another journalist. “He turned out to be a real journalist and had been in Donetsk for a month.”
After three days the pre-med student from Syria and his journalist cell-mate were handed over to an international organization. After that, he made his way home. Now, he says, “I am in a safe place. I hope that many of the guys who worked with me are, too. But we will all remember this war, the unhuman and brutal one. The one that changed our lives forever.”
There is one more short video, originally posted December 14, 2022, which was reportedly taken by an anonymous source who claims he went to an “organ sale” at the morgues in Nikolaev and told them he was looking for bone marrow for his son, and that the chief physician (presumably the man speaking in the video) “had no problem” discussing the price list and describing the peculiarities of such orders.
You can watch it on my channel, in Russian, with English subtitles.
Anonymous source describes black market organ harvest in Ukraine. First published at 03:03 UTC on December 14th, 2022. Also available on Bitchute:
The man behind the camera asks what kinds of options there are.
“Well, look,” another unseen man answers, “there are different prices. The most pleasant of which, is around $60,000.”
He gives the prices in US dollars, saying that there are options for $30,000 or $25,000, “but everything depends on the condition of, so to say, the donor himself.”
“Why such a big difference?” the man behind the camera asks.
“Well, as I said,” the other man responds, “everything depends on the donor himself. On the damage.”
Damage from fighting, perhaps? “Additionally,” he continues, “the cargo is, let’s say, fragile, and the price may change during transportation.”
The cameraman asks, “What kind of damage?”
“Well, nothing critical, perhaps an acoustic concussion,” the other man answers. Like from a grenade or artillery explosion? “Let me show you,” he says, but the video ends.
Whether there is more of this video somewhere, I do not know. But if the video is an actual recording of a surgeon in Nikolaev, it corroborates much of what the other two anonymous sources said in their confessions, and reveals that illegal organ harvesting continues in Ukraine.
Can any of the videos be trusted? You will have to decide for yourself. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and much more is yet to come in part two of this investigative series.
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.
Ukraine Accused of Slaughtering Children and Harvesting Their Organs (31 Jan. 2023) –
In newly-released video footage from the frontlines of the Russo-Ukrainian War, a visibly emotional Russian officer describes children being treated as if they are “livestock, piglets, or rabbits” by their Ukrainian captors around the town of Izium, where the discovery of an organ harvesting facility was reported.
Russian soldiers are claiming that they’ve made a hideous discovery inside Ukraine, where they say that children between the ages of 2 and 7 are being “carved up” and “kept in pits,” “like discarded waste” as their organs are harvested and sold for use at European and Israeli transplant centers.
Ukrainian Red Cross accused of involvement in harvesting children’s organs
(14 June 2022) – The Russian Investigative Committee is looking into allegations that the Ukrainian Red Cross Society is keeping records of children with “healthy organs” in the city of Mariupol. This is significant because armed conflicts and illegal human organ trade often go hand in hand. Military actions are not just about solving geopolitical issues and profiting off the arms trafficking. New Eastern Outlook reported last March that organ buyer-ups and black-market transplant surgeons have long become common elements of the military landscape, much like mercenaries. (Source)
Human Organ Trafficking is not new in Ukraine:
Ukraine’s Shame: An Epidemic of Human Trafficking
(16 JAN 2016) – Ukraine remains one of Europe’s most notorious sources of human trafficking. Since 1991, more than 160,000 men, women and children have been exploited for labor, sex, forced begging and organ removal, according to a mid-2015 report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). While the government of Ukraine has consistently pledged reform to meet international obligations—for example, as a signatory of the United Nations’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children—it has failed to adequately support anti-trafficking organizations that do the bulk of the work. (Source)
Organ Harvesting in Ukraine Goes Unreported
(7 SEPT 2014) – Unlike the terrorist offenses in Libya, Syria, and now Iraq, backed by the United States, the UK, the EU, members of NATO as well as regional collaborators such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Qatar, where any attempts to stop extremists from seizing entire nations is met by the West’s howling indignation and accusations of “human rights abuses,” the unmitigated brutality executed by literal Nazis in Ukraine against breakaway provinces in the east are accompanied by a hypocritical silence from the West. Refugees streaming away from encircled and bombarded populated centers tell tales of mass murder, indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and even grisly accounts of forced organ harvesting taking place from the bodies of those killed by Kiev’s combined arms offensive, or from those kidnapped by criminal gangs operating in the vacuum of impunity afforded by the West’s silence. (Source)