In the middle of a serious armed conflict, it is only natural that emotions and tensions run both high and hot. Yet, posterity will inevitably cast individual combatants, participating nations, and even outside observers who can maintain a rational and humane continence and those who sink into extremism and cruelty in completely differing lights.
A shocking video emerged to meet the faces of the English speaking Internet on March 20 when comments made by Gennadiy Druzenko, Board Chairman of Ukraine’s Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (PFVMH), during an interview country’s Channel 24 television series served as a splash of cold water.
The clip starts off on an already extremely hot take, “Putin’s machinery burns well. Cadavers of ‘Putinoids’ stink to high heavens, but become harmless at the end, they say,” states Druzenko.
But the Chairman’s comments turned even more chilling just seconds later, “I gave orders to my medical staff…you know, I am a great humanist and used to say ‘a wounded enemy isn’t an enemy anymore, but is a patient.’”
“But this time around, I gave strict orders to castrate all the wounded [Russian soldiers], because they are cockroaches. Not humans,” he said flatly.
“Our doctors always tried to save patients. But Russians will die here. They will die in great numbers, and lucky ones who get out alive will remember with great horror Ukrainian land like Germans do Stalingrad.”
A Ukraine government partnership
While Gennadiy Druzenko’s comments appear at first glance to be what North Americans would immediately equate to the ravings of an unhinged “white nationalist” serving as a member of a far-right domestic terrorism group, Druzenko is no ordinary person in Ukraine.
The website for Druzenko’s “volunteer mobile hospital” states it was founded in 2014, the same year as the U.S.-backed coup d’etat of former President Victor Yanukovych, in the hotly contested predominantly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Eastern Ukraine where battles between self-organized people’s militias and the Armed Forces of Ukraine frequently arose.
The PFVMH boasts at least 500 members, adding, “We work in partnership with the Ukrainian state, ensuring that we uniquely combine the enthusiasm and flexibility of a volunteer movement with the focused and strategic approach offered by state agencies.”
While asking for donations to “help us to buy medical equipment, vehicles, protective equipment, and everything we need to maintain the day-to-day running of the hospital,” the organization reveals it established a formal memorandum with the Ukraine Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in addition to “support” from the National Security and Defense Council.
According to Druzenko’s Facebook page, the head previously served as a program coordinator at the federal government entity U.S. Agency for International Development via consulting firm Chemonics International, and served as an “independent scholar” at the D.C. think tank Wilson Center from 2009 to 2010.
In 2019, Druzenko was featured in a one hour segment on WIFU Indiana Public Radio, where additional credentials were listed:
- Director for Central and Eastern Europe of Williams WorldWide Group
- Fulbright-Kennan Institute Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C.
- Research Fellow at the at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany
The profile also stated that Druzenko held multiple high level positions within the Ukraine government, including Deputy Director of the European and Comparative Law Center from 2001 to 2004 and Chief of Staff for the Ukraine Parliament’s Committee on European Integration from 2010 to 2011.
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Shortly before the piece aired, Druzenko was hosted by the Indiana University’s Center for Constitutional Democracy, where he “brought a collection of original, orthodox icons—hand-painted on repurposed ammo boxes—to be displayed and sold as part of a fundraiser” for the PFVMH.
Druzenko also obtained his LL.M from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen in 2008, according to his publicly available curriculum vitae.
Slightly more than a week prior, Druzenko was given a platform on U.S. establishment keystone messaging outlet CNN, where he was lauded as a “Ukrainian constitutional scholar turned wartime aid volunteer.”
In a Twitter post, CNN interviewer Fareed Zakaria defined his guest as a “well-known intellectual.”
Opening the interview, Druzenko sold himself as, “One of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians who just defend not just our land, but freedom, dignity, and very basic, very fundamental things.”
He then said in order to understand “how we feel now” that “Americans should remind their youth” of the battles and struggles the Founding Fathers endured 250 years ago.
PFVMH was also featured in a March 7 advertorial by New York Post coined On the Front Lines With Ukraine’s ‘Medical Angels’, which glorified Druzenko’s operation and painted Ukraine as merely an innocent bystander of a psychotic and marauding Russian Federation.
“Working with military and Territorial Defense Volunteers, the PFVMH and Red Cross make endless trips in and out of the dangerous red zone, even as the artillery becomes louder and more rapid, both incoming and outgoing fire booming through the gloomy sky,” read one paragraph.
Another reads, “Victoria Kramarenko, 55, a PFVMH volunteer and burn-nurse specialist, rushes into the cluster of the displaced masses to carry luggage and cradle newborns up a small hill, all while embodying a picture of maternal calmness. It’s the sort of work that can never be finished, never be triumphant, despite how many lives are saved.”
After the clip went live throughout Russian and English-speaking internet spheres, Druzenko was forced to walk back his comments. In a March 21 update to the PFVMH website, the entity said their Chairman “made an emotional statement as to sterilizing invaders.”
But Druzenko stating that his company would commit war crimes against wounded Russian Federation soldiers is only understandable, they said, because “the statement was provoked by threats against both Gennadiy personally and his family members.”
“PFVMH officially states that it has never engaged and does not plan to engage in any sterilization of the Russian invaders, the more so captive Russian soldiers and officers,” it added.
On Facebook, Druzenko also stated in Ukrainian “It’s official. #PDMSH does not castrate anyone and is not going to. Those were the emotions. I’m sorry. We are saving lives. Period.”
Nonetheless, according to Daily Mail, Druzenko is “set to be put on Russia’s international wanted list.”