WHAT KREMLIN PROPAGANDISTS SAY:
One longstanding pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative which continues to be promoted is the notion that ‘Ukraine is selling its citizens’ organs’. Kremlin propagandists promote the conspiracy theory that Ukraine is engaging in a widespread organ trafficking scheme and that the country's leadership is turning Ukraine "into a global centre of trafficking in human organs."
Kremlin sources have promoted this disinformation narrative since 2014, with the 2022 full-scale invasion re-igniting accusations of large-scale organ trafficking. Pro-Kremlin media outlets have conducted numerous so-called ‘investigations’ into the alleged organ trafficking taking place in Ukraine. RT released a one-hour documentary, ‘Tanks for Kidneys,’ in May 2023, claiming to have unveiled a dossier of evidence showing that Ukraine is posthumously harvesting the organs of soldiers and citizens. The documentary claims that “bodies have been found without organs” and allege that humanitarian organisations operating within the region, such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, are removing the organs from soldiers on the front line for sale on the black market to ‘pay for’ military aid. 
The narrative has been linked to the ongoing military conflict, with ‘evidence’ from the frontline of the war fuelling the conspiracy that soldiers' organs are being exchanged for weapons. Well–known disinformation actors circulated a video, reportedly filmed by a deceased Ukrainian soldier, ‘accidentally’ capturing an organ transplant taking place on the front line of the war. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has claimed that the "[The Kyiv] regime is ready to pay anything for the military assistance it gets. It’s now even come to the human organs of its citizens,” before going on to assert that “in the active combat zone, 20-30 people per day end up being operated on by the ‘organ harvesters.’”
WHAT ARE THE FACTS:
It is technically impossible for organ transplants to be performed ‘in the field’. The complexity and time-constrained nature of organ transplant procedures have been explained at length by medical experts, revealing the groundlessness of the Kremlin conspiracy. Transplant operations require large medical teams of up to ten surgeons, access to a sterile operating environment and a thorough medical examination of patients to assess underlying health conditions and blood types - none of these prerequisites are remotely possible in the front line of a war. Further, human tissue, once removed from the body, has an incredibly limited period of viability for transplant. In the case of a heart or lungs, transplants must be completed in just 4-6 hours, with a continuous oxygen source maintained in between.
The claim that ‘Ukraine is selling its citizens’ organs’ is a familiar Kremlin conspiracy theory, which has been levelled at several other countries. In 2019, Kremlin sources published similar claims about the White Helmets operating in Syria, alleging that the humanitarian organisation was “a key element in the forced organ seizure system". Whether these claims are being directed at Ukraine or any other country, the popular disinformation narrative remains little more than a shocking (but completely baseless) conspiracy theory designed to distract from the real atrocities being committed at the hands of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine.
The so-called ‘evidence’ of organ harvesting operations taking place in Ukraine, published by pro-Russian actors, has been widely debunked. In the case of the ‘operation room’ video, there are no distinguishing marks visible which indicates the participants are members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The video was initially shared by a Russian propagandist, Andrii Rudenko, with a well-documented track record of spreading pro-Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine. The Red Cross, a humanitarian organisation which Russia has sought to embroil in the conspiracy theory, has described any suggestion that they are involved in organ trafficking as an “unequivocally false allegation”.
Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from Debunk.org which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at debunk.org/debunker.