Warning: The links included in the investigation contain scenes that may be gruesome and shocking to some followers
Syrian websites and accounts on social media sites and applications (Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp) showed a video recording that contained gruesome footage, showing people wearing protective uniforms usually used by medical personnel in hospitals. The video shows dozens of naked bodies piled next to and on top of each other in a corridor and inside a room whose floor was covered in blood, in a place that appeared to be a hospital or a mortuary. It appeared in the video many of the bodies had been subjected to dissection or severe surgery, and during the video we can hear voices speaking in Russian.
The video was shared with a title claiming it “filmed the bodies of Syrian detainees, children, women and men, whose human organs were harvested by Russian doctors,” and that the video “was recorded at Hamish Military Hospital in Damascus, in preparation for obtaining false death certificates.”
The Syrian political activist, Wael Khaldi, published a tweet on his Twitter account on November 2, in which he addressed the same video, accompanied by a picture taken from the video, and stated in the tweet: “After I confirmed the authenticity of the video and the filming site at Hamish Military Hospital I’m publishing it, it shows the Russian doctors in this video harvesting organs from the bodies of children, women and men, in preparation for obtaining false death certificates.”
These allegations were repeatedly promoted on the Step News website, and on many pages and personal accounts on social media sites, and these allegations were also reported by Syrians on WhatsApp.
Refute the claim
Verify-Sy used the (InVid) tool to verify the video by cutting out several images from it, and searching for them in reverse individually, through reverse image search engines. And found results of the photo that shows a person wearing protective clothing from infectious epidemics, bending between the scattered bodies, in the Russian website (tolknews.ru), which published the photo in a report in which it spoke about the same video that was attached to the allegations.
The Russian website, which specializes in Russian Altai news, published a report on November 2, 2020, in which the above-mentioned video appears. The report stated that residents of Altai region circulated the video via WhatsApp, with allegations that it was filmed in the Barnaul morgue in the region, without any confirmation of these allegations, according to the website.
The report added that there are allegations that the video was filmed at Kommunarka Hospital in the Russian capital, Moscow, indicating in the end that there is no confirmation of the place and time of the video.
Verify-Sy continued the search using keywords in Russian language such as (mortuary / Морг, Barnaul / Барнаул), and we found a post on the Russian website (ok) on November 1 of this year, in an account called (Barnaul Accidents / Инцидент Барнаул ). The account said in its post that the video is being circulated as being in a morgue, without specifying its location, denying the existence of any information about the location of the video.
The results of the in-depth research conducted by (Verify-Sy) showed that the account (Barnaul Accidents / Инцидент Барнаул) was the first to publish this recording, taking into account that other accounts may have published the recording and then deleted it, without knowing the timing and date of publication or deletion.
The video spread in Russia before Syria, causing controversy in the media and reactions from official sources
The video recording was not circulated in Russia on a single site or region, but it was later republished as the search results showed using related images and keywords.
The recording was circulated as showing the bodies of victims who died as a result of being infected with the Coronavirus in a morgue in a hospital in Novosibirsk, and the Russian website (komsomolskaya pravda) published a report on November 10 of this year, in which it was mentioned that a social activist named (Rostislav Antonov) published the recording, which prompted the Minister of Health of the Novosibirsk region to deny that this recording was taken in one of the facilities of the medical district.
The same website stated that the Minister of Health in (Novosibirsk) admitted that there was congestion in the morgue of the city hospital, adding that the hospital director had to deal with the problem of lack of places in the morgue, which was mentioned by other Russian sites, some of which can be found here and here.
In an attempt to get to the original recording, I tried (Verify) to communicate with the activist (Rostislav Antonov), to whom the video was attributed, but he did not respond to our messages on his account on the Russian site (Vk).
Not only did the video spread at this point, but it was also republished once that it depicts the morgue of the city (Ufa), the capital of the Russian (Bashkiria) region. According to what was reported by the website (Byzdyak) specialized in reporting news from the Russian region of (Bashkiria), as well as other sites, some of which can be found here and here.
Russian websites indicated that the local authorities were able to determine the identity of the person who published the recording, claiming that he had filmed in the morgue of Ufa city, and stated that his name was (Slavan Ruslan) and that he ran several channels on YouTube and a group on the Russian site (Vk). Adding that the authorities are considering filing a lawsuit against the publisher.
Verify-Sy found (Ruslan Akshulbanov) account on the Russian site (Vk), and (Ruslan) shared on his page a post from the (Axolpan) group that he runs, which included an apology from the group for "publishing the video and claiming that it was filmed in the morgue of Ufa." And an indication that the date and place of filming of the video are unknown, and a promise to the followers to be careful before publishing.
In addition, a tweet from Khatol Momand account posted on Twitter on November 23, it included pictures from the same recording, claiming that a friend sent her this recording from a hospital in Iran.
Debunking the video was recorded in Hamish Military Hospital
Verify-Sy contacted the Syrian opposition activist Wael al-Khalidi, and asked him for evidence that could support his claim that the video was recorded in Hamish Hospital in Damascus. Al-Khalidi only replied “at the moment I only have the confirmation of the high-rank security official who sent me the video”
At the same time, Verify-Sy contacted a person who lost a limb and received physical treatment at Hamish Hospital in Damascus about two years ago, and with another source, a young man who received physical therapy training in the same hospital. The two sources confirmed that Hamish Hospital is known to specialize only in manufacturing and installing prostheses in addition to physical treatment, adding that the hospital provides its services to soldiers and civilians who have lost their limbs as a result of disease or injury.
The sources also denied noticing any Russian medical cadres in the hospital, noting that the design of the walls in the video with the civilian frame that extends along the walls of the corridor does not match the shape of the walls of any department in Hamish Hospital.
Scenes from inside Hamish Hospital can be found in a video published in 2018 by a news network aligned with the Assad regime.
Analysis and conclusion
After a careful review of the video, and the circumstances that accompanied the spread of the recording in Russia and Syria, (Verify-SY) reached several clues and indications, it is likely that the recording was not filmed in Syria but was filmed in Russia or in a Russian-speaking country based on these clues:
1 - The video was widely shared among Russian citizens and the Russian media a month before it was published as from in Syria.
2 - The spread of registration coincided with widespread talk in the Russian media about the crises of accumulating the bodies of (Covid-19) victims in morgues in several Russian regions, which can be viewed here, here, and here.
3- Verify-Sy team obtained a translation of the phrases heard during the recording, with the help of three independent translators fluent in the Russian language, and according to the translators, a female voice says at the beginning: "I have to go there," then a man asks: "What is his nickname?" A woman answers, "I don't know his nickname," and after that a female voice says: "Show me Bolchkina." According to one of the translators, (Bolchkina) is a female nickname that is present in Russia, and it is likely that the name belongs to one of the victims in the video.
4- It is possible to notice the presence of sings on the doors of the rooms in but difficult to see due to the low quality of the video, but one of those paintings that appear in the 11th second of the video, appears written with the letter (L) in Russian, in the picture below.
5 - There is no indication or evidence in the recording that might support the account that it claims was filmed in Syria, and in Hamish Military Hospital in particular.
The Assad regime and the detainees' organ trade
After 2011, several reports and investigations have spread accusing the Assad regime of its involvement in the trade of human organs, and the Al-Modon website stated in an investigation published in 2018 that such operations were taking place from military hospitals, to which detainees of the regime were transferred after being subjected to severe torture Until they close to death, and there they are removed from their bodies, to be transported out of Syria through mafias linked to the Assad regime.
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