At the end of March, Belarusian media wrote about the detention of about 30 orthopaedic traumatologists all over the country. Many Belarusians, who had planned operations, examinations and consultations found themselves without help. The official version voiced by Lukashenka, was that medics received bribes from foreigners. “Searches of some people found €300 thousand, €650 thousand in cash only at home,” the illegitimate dictator said at a meeting.
According to the official version, the orthopedists got detained on suspicion of manipulating prosthetic joints. “What are we going to do with half a hundred people, who were found guilty of corruption, who took money from crooks of foreign origin and ours, who represented German and other companies here and shared that money,” Aliaksandr Lukashenka said. “We have long revealed this process. And I did not even allow the intelligence services to report without any grounds. But when they gather in a restaurant, get drunk, and a representative of a foreign company hands out bribes in envelopes (under the camera, of course), and when they report it to me – what should be my decision?”
Doctors from Vitebsk region, two heads of traumatology departments from Homel region, three orthopedists-traumatologists from Mazyr and Lukashenka’s personal doctor were detained. The illegitimate dictator stressed: “It is sad that the president’s attending physician, who has examined the president more than once, got there. I am upset by this fact, but the law is the law – it’s the same for everyone”.
The detention coincided with the information that Russian soldiers wounded during the war in Ukraine got treatment in the hospitals of Belarus.
Since the beginning of the war, wounded Russian soldiers have been taken to hospitals in Mazyr, Homel, and a field hospital in Narovlya. In one of the hospitals in Homel region, operating rooms were working non-stop, and up to 50 people could be operated on during the night alone. One of the frequent surgical manipulations was the amputation of limbs.
The illegitimate authorities of Belarus panically afraid of publicity, and therefore, the hospitals turned into guarded facilities. The police and KGB officers are on duty here. Doctors who may know something are fired. In addition, some Belarusian medical workers were forced to sign an agreement for non-disclosure of information about the killed and the wounded Russians. They are prohibited to talk to the press and threatened with dismissal. But the truth cannot be concealed from the local population, especially from people left without timely assistance because of the Russian military. Many have also seen trains full of dead Russian soldiers and a closed cemetery that has been converted into graves for Russian soldiers.
It is possible that among the detained doctors were those who treated soldiers, performed amputations and prosthesis joints.
Not all of them did so of their own free will. For example, some specialists said they would not go anywhere. “And if they do, I’ll send them away. There is a whole military medical faculty that trains military doctors. Let them be involved,” one of the medics told DW. Detainees in pre-trial detention facilities do not have much choice, they are forced to do what they are told by the administration, under fear of torture, solitary confinement, lack of food, and health problems. We have repeatedly spoken about the horrors of the Belarusian prisons. Therefore, we can assume that the best orthopaedic traumatologists from all over the country are brought from pre-trial detention facilities to treat military personnel and then brought back to their cells.
The fact that one of the detainees cut his neck is evidence of the enormous pressure on the medics. His colleague reported about it. He specified that his wounds were superficial. It is not clear why the doctor did that. We would remind you that Stepan Latypov did the same thing on 1 June last year. His father said that political prisoners were told that they were criminals. In November 2020, Stepan visited the so-called “Shanghai”: “It’s a building with three floors of bunk beds, full of cockroaches and marginalised people, I lay there for hours, wrapping a wet towel around my face”. Stepan Latypov was sent for a compulsory psychiatric examination.
What to do with the “guilty” orthopedists?
Lukashenka suggested the following variant: “Today, I would like to determine what we will do with these people in the presence of our chief custodian of the law, the Prosecutor General. I know your petitions to bail them out. Not to forgive, but to bail them out after they have compensated for huge damage to the state, to send them to a certain structure to work, as you have decided. Naturally, in their speciality”.
Punishment by forced labour in the hinterland is typical of guilty officials. For example, former Deputy Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Arkhipov got sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes and abuse of power or official authority. But in 2014, four years before the end of his sentence, he was pardoned by Lukashenka and sent to the agricultural enterprise “Petrovichi” near Minsk. Aliaksandr Rimashevski, former chairman of the Soligorsk district executive committee, was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery in December 2017. But in the summer of 2018, it became known that he had been released early and headed an agricultural enterprise in the Drohichyn district. The former director of the Bobruisk meat processing plant, Viktor Khodasevich, was sentenced in May 2015 to two years in a strict regime colony and a fine. But already in February 2016, he became the director of “Lipovka” enterprise in Khotimsk district.
We can conclude that the doctors found guilty in the “orthopaedic case” will be sent to work in rural obstetric stations or district hospitals. Of course, they also need specialists there – but if they move to rural areas, their working conditions and salaries will significantly worsen. A rural hospital does not always have good quality repairs, equipment and transport to visit remote villages. If a doctor is sent to the countryside far away from home, he will have to look for a flat in a new place, and it is not certain that he will be able to find comfortable accommodation. Doctors will be separated from their families who may not agree to move from the big city to the countryside.
We would remind you that there is a catastrophic shortage of medics in Belarus. Doctors are sought not only in Minsk but also in the regions: Maryina Gorka, Bobruisk, Lyakhovichi, Baranovichi. Many doctors were forced out of the country after the 2020 demonstrations. Some specialists are behind bars because they participated in the protests. If all the defendants in the “orthopaedic case” are sentenced, the situation in the medical field will only worsen. Belarusians in different parts of the country will be left without assistance, which may lead to terrible health consequences, including death.