Russian Hospitals Turning Away Civilians to Treat Wounded Troops: Report

An independent Russian news outlet is reporting that, despite official assertions to the contrary, some Russian hospitals are being reserved for injured soldiers, leaving civilian patients out in the cold.

The report was published Tuesday in the Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta and concerned a number of hospitals in the Russian city of Belgorod. It was unclear if any other cities were undergoing a similar transition with their respective hospitals.

In particular, city hospital No. 2, one of the largest and most modern treatment centers in Belgorod—which the Gazeta additionally called "one of the best in the city and the region"—was reported to only be treating wounded Russian soldiers. All other patients and civilians were reportedly being turned away and sent elsewhere, despite the hospital being located in what is described as one of the most up-to-date and modern areas of Belgorod.

The Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for his commitment to freedom of the press, sent a correspondent to city hospital No. 2 as the news was emerging. There, the newspaper reported, the correspondent reportedly discovered a meeting of emergency room officials being convened to discuss issues on "military agenda" related to the hospital.

Russia Hospital
Hospitals in the Russian city of Belgorod have reportedly stopped taking in civilian patients in favor of transitioning their facilities into military hospitals for Russians who are injured in Ukraine. Here, a hospital entrance in another large Russian city, St. Petersburg, can be seen in December 2020. Olga Maltseva/Getty

It was reported that, despite no civilian patients being accepted at city hospital No. 2, the halls of the trauma center were reportedly overflowing with Russian soldiers who have been injured in Ukraine. With the United Nations (U.N.) estimating the number of fatalities to keep increasing, the hospital will likely not be empty of soldiers anytime soon.

The Gazeta did not specify whether this decision was made by the hospital itself or the city of Belgorod, which has a population of nearly 400,000.

The Gazeta's report, though, was contradicted by the city of Belgorod, which told Newsweek that, despite reports to the contrary, civilians are still being accepted at city hospital No. 2. The city referred to an Instagram statement from Belgorod's minister of health, Andrey Ikonnikov.

"I see a lot of information on the net that @gb2_belgorod no longer accepts civilian patients—this is not true," Ikonnikov said in the translated statement. "We continue to work as usual, no changes have occurred."

The medical organization is the flagship for the provision of emergency and planned medical care in the regional capital—17 specialized departments are deployed here, the volume of beds is more than 1000," Ikonnikov said. "The hospital is provided with everything necessary. No one will be left without help. Do not worry."

While the total number of fatalities from the invasion of Ukraine may never be known exactly, satellite images in the days before the attack showed significant medical preparations by Russian forces along the Ukrainian border. This included additional shipments of blood banks, as well as numerous field hospitals in which front-line injuries could be treated.

Some took the report as yet another sign that the Russians were encountering heavier opposition from the Ukrainians than they had anticipated.

Kevin Rothrock, the managing editor for Latvian newspaper Meduza, sarcastically tweeted that it "sounds like the invasion is going...not well."

After the article's publication, it was noted that the newspaper has a history of shedding light on a variety of social and cultural issues in Russia, despite Belgorod officials reiterating that the hospital story was false.

This included reports in 2017 regarding anti-gay purges in the Russian republic state of Chechnya. Another notable highlight of the newspaper came in 2004, when it published a slew of articles that accused former Russian Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko of embezzlement and corruption.

Update 03/02/2022, 4:42 p.m. ET: This article was updated with a statement from the city of Belgorod.