Propaganda narrative: Organ trafficking is not widespread in Ukraine, and Coca-Cola is not involved in it

Illustration, Raskrinkavanje

Original article (in BCS) was published on 20/10/2023; Author: Mladen Lakić

In the articles of several web portals, as well as in posts on social networks, it is claimed that the sale of organs on the black market is widespread in Ukraine and that the government of that country is involved in it. The Russian politician recently made such allegations, without offering any evidence of them.

On October 10, the web portal Nulta tacka published an article titled:

Coca-Cola involved in child trafficking and the “organ black market” in Ukraine

The article states that Anna Kuznetsova, the deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, said that “commercial documents” found in Ukraine link the Coca-Cola Company and an unnamed British private military company to child trafficking of orphans.

Commercial documents connecting the Coca-Cola company and the British private military company with the child trafficking from a local orphanage were found in Sviatogorst, Ukraine, said Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, Ana Kuznetsova.

In addition, Kuznetsova said that the sale and transplantation of organs on the black market now accounts for 7 percent of the income of the entire budget of Ukraine, which amounts to 2 billion dollars.

“Seven percent of Ukraine’s budget, or $2 billion, is profit from the sale of organs on the black market”, said Kuznetsova. “We understand that the system is supported at the government level”.

The article also states that “one of the official websites of the European Union” published statements about Ukraine being “the capital of illegal organ transplants”. It is specified that it is an article from 2011.

Before anyone classifies the words of the spokesperson of Moscow’s foreign affairs as Russian propaganda, we quote the article of New Europe, one of the official websites of the European Union, dated November 2, 2011. The article was published under the title: “Ukraine: the capital of illegal organ transplants”.

According to the article, “Ukraine’s lack of medical infrastructure and non-existent organ transplant legislation have allowed the illegal trade in human organs to flourish, with desperate people increasingly turning to the black market for solutions. Profitable trade ranges from the transportation of bones, kidneys, liver and intestines to the illegal extraction of stem cells from newborns” – so the EU news web portal cannot be accused of being pro-Russian in the slightest.

In the analyzed article, there is also a post by a user of the X network (formerly Twitter) in which there is a 30-second video with Kuznetsova’s statement, with subtitles in English.

Photo: Screenshot X/ “The Coca Cola company is involved in the child trafficking of orphans from Ukraine. It’s about harvesting organs for the black market!”

This video with the description that “the Coca-Cola company is involved in child trafficking” was also shared in the local area on Facebook. The earliest such post we found was shared on October 7, 2023, i.e. three days before the publication of identical allegations in the analyzed articles.

The article of the web portal Nulta tacka was also published by Epoha and Provjereno.

What are the facts?

The article published by Nulta tacka is a translation of an article published on September 9, 2023, on the website The People’s Voice, which often publishes disinformation and conspiracy theories. It changed its name several times, originally it was called Your News Wire (link, link, link), and until recently it was called News Punch.

On Telegram, on October 5, 2023, Anna Kuznetsova released a video from the press conference. On that occasion, as can be seen from the description of the video, Kuznetsova stated that documentation had been found in Ukraine linking Coca-Cola to child trafficking from orphanages and the sale of their organs on the black market.

Photo: Screenshot Telegram/”Coca-Cola was involved in child trafficking of Ukrainian children. This was stated by the vice president of the State Duma, Anna Kuznetsova”.

Kyiv Post wrote about her statements in an analysis published on October 10, 2023. As stated, she did not offer any evidence of finding documents related to the trade of children and organs on the black market.

Without offering any evidence, Kuznetsova said that a professional kidnapping group operates in Ukraine and that “about 856 children have been forcibly taken” and then sold on the dark web.

The Kyiv Post notes that Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, also made claims about a black market for organs in Ukraine without any evidence.

On the official page of the Coca-Cola company, as well as on the official accounts on social networks, there are no announcements regarding Kuznetsova’s accusations. Also, credible media and organizations dealing with the protection of human and children’s rights did not report on this case, although such a story would have attracted a lot of attention.

Russian propaganda narrative about the organ black market in Ukraine

EUvsDisinfo, a platform dedicated to identifying, collecting and exposing disinformation from pro-Russian circles, analyzed in a text published on August 7, 2023, claims that the Ukrainian authorities have been smuggling illegally extracted human organs since the early 2000s, which were presented in August of this year by Maria Zakharova and published in an article in Russia Today. In the analyzed article, it is claimed that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported in 2014 about mass graves with bodies in which organs were missing. It is also claimed that the employees of a NATO country agreed with Ukraine to deliver a refrigerator containing human organs that are most often used in transplantation.

All these claims, as EUvsDisinfo writes, are incorrect and are part of the Russian disinformation narrative that the Ukrainian authorities are involved in the illegal organ trade.

EUvsDisinfo, referring to its database, states that Russia has been promoting such narratives for years before the aggression against Ukraine. A similar disinformation narrative was observed in connection with the conflicts in Syria, it was directed against NATO, then in Georgia and Kosovo, and finally during the aggression against Ukraine.

As documented in our database – see links below – this disinformation appeared in connection with Russia’s agitation in Syria against the White Helmets, against NATO, in Georgia, where even the wife of the former Georgian president Mikheil Sahashvili was targeted, in Kosovo and now with greater intensity in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The analyzed example in which a Russian official claims that a “document” was found that proves that Ukraine has become a market for illegal trade in organs, and that Coca-Cola and an unnamed British company are involved, is reminiscent of the statements of Russian officials who claimed that documents exist which prove that Ukraine is developing biological weapons, with the support of the USA.

In 2022, for example, the official Facebook page of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina published an allegation that the USA financed laboratories in Ukraine that studied “methods for the destruction of the Russian people at the genetic level”. These almost science-fictional claims were made by an official source, and then some media outlets and supporters of conspiracy theories picked them up. Similar claims appeared later, enriched with details such as claims that the Russian authorities have documented evidence of the work of the alleged laboratories. The fact is that the existence of such laboratories has not been proven to date. Read more about it in the analysis at the link here. The method for an official source to place an incorrect statement and at the same time not provide any evidence about it is noticeable in the analyzed example.

After the Russian Federation began its invasion of Ukraine with a series of attacks in February 2022, there was an increase in disinformation coming from Russia. A significant number of them build some of the disinformation narratives. You can read the analyzes of the most represented narratives of Russian war propaganda in BiH and the region at the link here.

The disinformation we analyzed built narratives such as declaring the West to be guilty of the war in Ukraine, glorifying Russia and its military power, then the narrative about Russia defending itself against the threat of Ukrainian nuclear and biological weapons, and the narrative about Ukraine as a Nazi state. In a similar way, a narrative was built about the trade of organs from Ukraine on the black market, claims that children are kidnapped from orphanages and that this is how the government budget is financed.

In the article published by Nulta tacka, it is stated that on November 2, 2011, New Europe published a headline about Ukraine as “the capital of illegal organ trade” and that it is “one of the official websites of the European Union”.

In question is the New Europe web portal, whose domain was and which was not active at the time of writing this analysis. An archived version of the web portal from September 25, 2023, shows what it looked like. In the “About us” section, it is stated that this is a medium that has been publishing news related to the EU since 1993. The search does not provide results that would confirm that this web portal was an “official site” of the EU. The web portal was registered on the .eu domain, but that does not mean that it was an “official EU site”.

We did not find an article from 2011 with the title “Ukraine: the capital of illegal organ transplants” on the New Europe web portal, considering that the web portal is not active. An article with that title, in English, was published on the page of Russia Today (state Russian media) a few days earlier, on October 25, 2011. It claims that the number of cases of organ trafficking is increasing in Ukraine.

However, cases of organ trafficking, although rare and recorded long before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (1, 2), are not proof that such a practice often takes place even now. Then, as now, there was no evidence that the Government of Ukraine was involved in these cases, nor that the state budget was financed from these sources.

According to the cases mentioned, the claim from the article of the web portal Nulta tacka that Coca-Cola is involved in child trafficking and organ black market in Ukraine and that seven percent of Ukraine’s budget comes from the trade in organs is considered fake news. We also rate the claim as a conspiracy theory. We give the same ratings to Facebook posts with these allegations, while we rate all subsequent posts as the distribution of fake news and a conspiracy theory.