Doctors in Russia have been asked to sacrifice part of their salary to provide "humanitarian aid" to people in Ukraine.
At a meeting on Friday in a Russian hospital they were told it was their duty to help "citizens in difficult circumstances in the area of the special military operation aimed at demilitarising and denazifying Ukraine," according to a recording of the meeting given to ITV News.
"Special military operation" is what the Kremlin calls the war in Ukraine.
ITV News was also given a copy of a letter allegedly handed to some Russian doctors at medical institutions with links to the Russian government.
The letter asks doctors to specify the amount of their "voluntary donation," which will then be transferred via their trade union to an organisation calling itself the "Russian Humanitarian Mission."
On its website, the Russian Humanitarian Mission describes itself as "a team of professionals with many years of experience in international humanitarian activity."
The letter asking doctors to sacrifice their salary
The request comes after Veronika Skvortsova, the Head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency of Russia ordered medical institutions to gather together their employees for a meeting about how they could help citizens in a "difficult situation" in Ukraine's Donbas region.
At one of those meetings, the general director of one hospital said people in the Donbas region are "going through one of the most tragic moments in their life" and that doctors should "not sit on the sidelines," but rather support them.
The general director told staff that it was proposed they each "voluntarily donate one day's salary," to citizens in the Donbas. Senior doctors were told it was suggested that they donate five days' salary.
Medics at the meeting were then read out the average daily salary for the head of a department to junior medical staff.
"At that point, everyone laughed," said a doctor in the room, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The figures that were read out were increased sums, the doctors don't get that much.
"For example, I should 'donate' about 8,000 roubles (about $80/£60) but this is actually two days worth of my salary, maybe even more."
The latest request made to medics asking them to "willingly donate" part of their salary was made to doctors at medical institutions all across Russia, ITV News was told.
"This would be a huge amount of money," the doctor told ITV News. "There are hospitals all across the country. If everyone donates they will get a huge sum."
The request to donate part of their salary comes at a time when doctors are also being asked to travel towards the front lines to deal with casualties from Russia's war in Ukraine, ITV News understands.
ITV News has previously reported how, just after the war began, Russia indicated it was anticipating a massive medical emergency and ordered the formation of 'special brigades' of doctors to deal with casualties from Ukraine.
Officially the Russian Ministry of Defence says 1351 Russian servicemen have died in Ukraine as of 25th March. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence estimates the number to be around 15,000.
Since the war started, the Russian Health Ministry has put out repeated calls for doctors to volunteer for "business trips."
Another document given exclusively to ITV News indicates how the Health Ministry of Tver Region sent a letter to medical organisations on March 5 asking them to provide a list of doctors who are ready for business trips and can be quickly involved in "saving lives and preserving the health of people in Russia."
The Tver Ministry of Health document listed medics the ministry was looking for, including paediatric, cardiovascular, maxillofacial and neurosurgeons, anaesthetists, ICU doctors, psychiatrists, paediatric infectious disease specialists and radiologists.
The letter from the Tver Ministry of Health asking doctors to go on business trips
A doctor who saw the document from Tver region said a colleague of theirs had already been "called up...to the front."
Another doctor said medics taking part in the "business trip" are "promised big salaries," but that after doctors allegedly did not receive the extra money they had been promised for working during the Covid pandemic, they "do not trust anyone."
Medics who were asked today to donate part of their salaries also said they do not trust their management.
"None of my colleagues was happy about this news. No one wants to give money, they don't trust the authorities. They told us the money is going to ordinary citizens but it is not really clear where it goes."
According to the general director of the hospital that on Friday asked employees to donate part of their salary, the Russian Humanitarian Mission has experience in "carrying out humanitarian acts together with representatives from the Russian Ministry of Defence in Syria and in Nagorno-Karabakh."
ITV News has contacted the Russian Humanitarian Mission to ask what funds it is receiving and what it intends to do with them in Ukraine.
Doctors are not the only state employees who are being asked to donate part of their salary.
For expert analysis of this topic, listen to the Ukraine episodes of the What You Need To Know podcast
According to the head of the doctors' trade union who also spoke at the meeting, also sacrificing part of their salary are workers from Russian state humanitarian agencies, the Ministry of Education, Federal Labour Service, Federal Customs Service, Ministry of Industry and Trade as well as charities and other individuals.
When asked at the end of the meeting by the general director whether doctors had any questions about the scheme, the only person heard to speak was a doctor in support of the "special military operation."
He exhorted his colleagues to donate, saying people in the Donbas area of Ukraine "don't have a house, belongings or money and most importantly they don't have a government they can rely on. Therefore I call on you to willingly join in."
Medics have been asked to submit their contribution to the scheme by next Wednesday. It is "unclear" what will happen to medics who do not sacrifice a part of their salary.
"I won't donate money because I do not support these criminal acts which are being carried out in Ukraine," said the doctor who spoke to ITV News following the meeting.
"I think Putin is a criminal. I don't know where this money is going but I don't believe our government and I don't want to have any relationship to the war in Ukraine."