One Hundred Thousand Mazyr in the Gomel (Russian) region of Gomel in southern Belarus is some 45 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. By March 3, the local morgue was no longer filled with dead Russian soldiers.
A Russian field hospital has sprung up in the nearby town of Naroulja. They airlift soldiers wounded in the fighting, provide them with rapid aid and then transport them to Mazyr or Homel to civilian hospitals, writes Radio Free Europe.
The Mazyr hospital is overflowing with Russian wounded and the beds are in the corridors. They must be cared for in various clinics by personnel of all specializations. “There are not enough surgeons. In the past, bodies were transported by ambulances, loaded onto Russian trains,” one of the doctors told Free Europe. “When someone videotaped it and posted it on the internet, they started loading the bodies at night so as not to attract attention.”
The doctor dared to speak despite the ban and the threat of expulsion. According to Deutsche Welle, Russian FSB or Belarusian KGB agents guard the hospitals. “All buildings are under surveillance. Many doctors who could theoretically tell something were removed from hospitals and replaced by the Russians,” a spokesman for the Belarusian Medical Solidarity Foundation told DW.
“Doctors threaten them and force them to sign a confidentiality statement.” Franak Viačorka, adviser to exiled Belarusian politician Sviatlana Cichanouska, writes on Twitter and adds a video showing military ambulances accompanied by a police car. “I spoke to a woman from Mazyr. She said she felt like she was under occupation.”
Yet some speak anonymously. According to an employee of a hospital in Gomel, trains and planes took away 2,500 bodies of Russian soldiers from the area on March 13.
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“There are so many wounded Russians – it’s just awful. Ugly mutilation. It’s awful to hear it screaming all over the hospital.” told one of the local patients about his experience at Gomel Hospital. “Without arms, legs, ears and eyes”, described the condition of the injured by an anonymous source from German television Deutsche Welle. “If they bring them back in time, their limbs can still be saved.” Another source confirmed that they often do not arrive on time, because of gangrene, doctors have to amputate them.
“The hospital is full” said this source from one of the hospitals in the Gomel region, he did not even want to specify that he was not going to get in trouble. They say he operates non-stop, even 50 patients a night.
The Russian edition of the BBC wrote on the Telegram that the morgue in Mazyr could not withstand the assault: “They don’t even put their bodies in the cold room, but in an ordinary five-by-five-meter room. They decompose, they stink, and then the soldiers take them somewhere,” said an anonymous BBC source known to morgue staff. “Nobody knows how many bodies. The doctors think there’s a mobile crematorium somewhere, or they just bury them.”
Stanislav Golovko, Mazyr’s acting head of pathology, rejects the allegations. He showed on state television that they had three bodies in the cold room. “We don’t have any other rooms here,” commented.
Exhaustion of blood supply
Somewhere on March 1, patients began to be sent home to prepare for the assault on Ukraine. According to the employees, four hundred wounded soldiers were also treated by the radiology center in Gomel. “People are panicking, but so far the care is there, there is enough medicine. It is unclear what will happen next. There may be problems with the tetanus medicine.” one of the doctors told Free Europe. Tetanus usually affects wounded bullets or shrapnel.
On March 13, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that the blood canisters were not sufficient for the operations of the Russian wounded. “About two-thirds of Belarus’ stocks have been diverted to Russian military personnel.” the ministry said on Facebook.
The Russian side released only one casualty statistic on March 2. The Ministry of Defense recorded 498 fallen soldiers and 1,597 wounded. The Kremlin tries to suppress information about the war, a “special military operation”, and the families of the victims do not have easy access to the information.
For a short period, the server of the pro-Kremlin daily Komsomolskaja pravda reported 9,861 dead and 16,153 injured Russians in a report, allegedly according to information Russian Department of Defense. The information quickly disappeared from the website, and the editors said the server had been infiltrated by hackers. During a press conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to answer CNN’s question as to whether these figures are close to reality: “We don’t have that information, we don’t have the authority to release it during the military operation. It’s the exclusive right of the Ministry of Defence.”
The Ukrainian military says total Russian casualties as of March 22 exceeded 15,000. It is likely that each side reports higher losses for the enemy and lower for itself, the information is not how to independently verify. Last week, US intelligence estimated between three and ten thousand Russian soldiers killed, reports the New York Times.
Some of the toughest fighting is taking place in northern Ukraine, for example around Chernihiv or north of kyiv. From there, transporting the Russian wounded to Belarus would make sense. After all, as part of the “exercise”, the Russian army and the Belarusian army prepared a base here before the invasion of Ukraine.
Medical aid under international humanitarian law does not make Belarusian hospitals accomplices in the Russian invasion. “You must help all the wounded, regardless of their army”, explains for DW Sjarhej Bohdan of the Free University of Berlin. “It is important that Belarus shows that it does not want to do anything serious against Ukraine, but that it is obliged to cooperate with Russia. The fact that Belarusian hospitals are accepting wounded soldiers could be described as a form participation on the Russian side. However, from a humanitarian point of view, this is not participation in the war.”
The problem, however, is that Russia does not view the conflict as a formal war, but as a “special military operation”. Therefore, international conventions would not have to apply.