Russian health ministry documents show how Russia is preparing for casualties

An ambulance moves in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia. Credit: AP

I have been given a copy of document issued today by the Russian Ministry of Health which shows it is anticipating a major medical event in which doctors have to be drafted from across the country.

It indicates Russia is anticipating a massive medical emergency and has ordered health organisations to immediately identify medical staff ready to relocate and work. The document from the Russian Ministry of Health is signed by the deputy health minister and dated today - February 25.

It asks medical organisations to be ready "to be promptly involved in activities aimed at saving lives and preserving the health of people in Russia". Russian medical institutions have been ordered by the Health Ministry to send a list no later than 6pm to the deputy health minister of "medical specialists and medical workers… indicating their full name, place of work, positions & contact details". The document makes it clear these medics will be deployed somewhere and will be offered a "reimbursement of travel and accommodation expenses, as well as payment of labour is expected from funds from the Federal Centre of Medical Disasters".

A nurse stands looking through the window of a hospital in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine. Credit: AP

The letter has a long list of medics it is looking for: trauma, heart, maxilofacial and paediatric surgeons, anaesthetists, radiologists, nurses (including for operating rooms) and infectious disease specialists. The letter shows the Russian Ministry of Health is clearly anticipating a major medical event in which doctors have to be drafted from across the country. The letter is signed by Deputy Health Minister Plutnitsky. Following publication of the document, two Russian doctors confirmed that they have seen it. 

What is the significance of the health ministry documents? Neil Connery explains

This order from the Russian Ministry of Health has been issued as Russian forces reportedly advance on Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine.

I understand doctors were gathered together yesterday and told to ‘get ready.’ Today, the document from the Russian Health Ministry arrived.

I am told this is highly unusual and almost unprecedented. After viewing the document, tonight a Ukrainian military official told me it could indicate that the medics are being drafted to assist with casualties from Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.

"This letter clearly demonstrates that the Russians did not expect to face such a level of resistance and losses. They wanted to make a blitzkrieg operation and should have finished it by now, but they are still far from achieving their goals," the Ukrainian military official told me. This would tally with reports from a senior US defence official who said today "there is greater resistance by Ukrainians than the Russians expected," and that Russia is not moving on Kyiv as fast as they anticipated and that Russia may have lost a "little bit of their momentum". The Ukrainian military official also expressed concern and said one interpretation of the document could be that 'Putin has the intention to go until the end, despite huge losses of personnel.' Tonight I have asked Russian officials if it is true Russia is preparing for a mass casualty event and if it is because Russia has met more resistance than it anticipated in its operation against Ukraine.

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