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Why does SBU accuse Kyivguma of supplying medical products to Russia?

In Europe
January 10, 2024

Kyivguma, a Ukrainian manufacturer of medical products, including tactical first-aid kits, has found itself in the disgrace of Ukraine’s SBU security service recently. The company claims to be under pressure at a time when the special service is bringing serious charges against them: aiding the Russian military aggression.

The SBU conducted searches at the Kyivguma offices on Jan. 4. The next day, Kyiv’s Shevchenkivskyi District Court arrested its co-owner Anton Kravets for 60 days without bail. He is accused of aiding the Russian military effort by supplying medical products through companies in Estonia and Switzerland. If found guilty, Kravets faces up to 12 years in prison with confiscation of property.

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Kyivguma CEO Andriy Ostrohrud has rejected the accusations. The businessman stated that Kyivguma had ceased cooperation with Russia in February 2022, while calling the above European companies “long-term partners.” In addition, the medical products that appear in the SBU charges have a civilian purpose, the businessman noted. That’s why he is convinced that the SBU case against one of his partners is beneficial to the competitors, who have been trying to eliminate Kyivguma from the Defense Ministry’s procurement process for more than a year, replacing Ukrainian-made first-aid kits with low-quality Chinese substitutes.

NV found out the key circumstances of the case, as well as asking paramedics about the quality of Kyivguma’s first-aid kits. It turned out that not everything is so simple.

SBU officers simultaneously searched the company’s offices at six different addresses. The SBU claims that it “exposed a Ukrainian company that supplied tactical medicine products to Russia during the war.”

The company, according to the SBU, sent several batches of tactical harnesses and bandages of its own production to Russia worth over UAH 40 million ($1.05 million) during 2022-2023.

Kyivguma indeed produces such goods. In total, the list of products contains 4,000 rubber, latex, and silicone items.

The company is owned by three people: Andriy Ostrohrud (20%), Roman Kravets (40%) and Anton Kravets (40%). The investigation indicates that the supply route from Ukraine to Russia passed through one of the European countries, where the participants established a company that ordered goods allegedly for sale in the European Union. Tactical medicine means were delivered to sanctioned companies, and then were used in individual first-aid kits of Russian citizens who took part in hostilities against the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

When searching the Kyivguma premises, the SBU officers found mobile phones, computers, and documents with evidence of violations. However, the special service has released only a few illegible screenshots of the invoices on its website.

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One of them shows the date and place of probable delivery in the city of Kronstadt, Russia, with a red marker highlighting “Martens rubber bandage, packed in 3 m and 5 m.” Another screenshot shows an email in which a person informs about the delivery of goods to Russian cities, such as Kronstadt and Moscow.

In turn, Ostrohrud confirmed that Kyivguma had indeed sent goods to Europe after February 2022, but not to Russia for the specified amount, but it was only civilian goods: rubber heating pads, oilcloths, pacifiers for babies, etc. The businessman denied that the said Martens bandage was classified as tactical medicine.

“Such items as the Martens bandage were classified as tactical. It’s a thin rubber strip in lengths of 3.5 and 5 m, used everywhere in the home, which we’ve been producing for over 70 years. It’s these positions that appear in the materials of the case in which we are accused of ‘treason,’” Ostrohrud commented emotionally on Facebook.

NV reached out to several practicing military paramedics to confirm Ostrohrud’s words.

Gennadiy Druzenko, head of the supervisory board of the Pirogov First Voluntary Mobile Hospital, told NV that he and his colleagues “never used such a product at the front.”

Maria Nazarova, combat medic, NAEMT tactical medicine instructor, also believes that this product cannot been classified as tactical medicine.

Yuriy Kubrushko, co-founder and coordinator of the Leleka Foundation tactical medicine projects, shares Nazarova and Druzenko’s views.

“The answer is very simple – it’s not a tactical medicine product. And it makes no sense for soldiers to carry such things to provide first aid.”

NV tried to find out whether the SBU has more compelling evidence of Kyivguma’s cooperation with Russian customers. Therefore, the editorial office turned to the SBU’s press service with a request to provide evidence, whether the released invoice was really drawn up by Kyivguma employees and who corresponded with the Russians on behalf of the Ukrainian company?

Instead of direct answers to the request, new screenshots of emails appeared in the media “from the SBU sources,” which are difficult for the editorial office to confirm or deny. As noted, Tetiana Mysak, the head of Kyivguma logistics department, was allegedly in correspondence with Alexei Tsvetkov, CEO of the Russian company Hermes-M, in November 2023.

This Moscow company specializes in wholesale trade of pharmaceuticals in Russia. Since 2020, Hermes-M’s revenue has dropped from $200,000 to $1,000 in 2022, while its commercial activity has lost profitability. Data for 2023 is not available.

“Alexei, the attached file contains approximate figures for the future supply. I added 300 pieces of 5 m bandage to the full pallet. Everything is fresh by terms, except for the Magic Flower silicone pacifier. No others are expected. Do you want us to load it?” Mysak allegedly wrote, as shown on the screenshot. Kyivguma co-owner Anton Kravets, who is among the accused, is indicated in the copy of the email.

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As follows from further correspondence, Tsvetkov is more interested not in pacifiers for babies, but in syringes with a soft tip used for the enema procedure. However, the Ukrainian manufacturer disappoints the Russian by replying that there is no timeline for when these products will go on sale.

NV asked Ostrohrud several times whether Kyivguma representatives had been in such correspondence with the Russians. To which the businessman replied that he would answer after a meeting with lawyers, but he did not get in touch before the publication of this material.

Regarding trade between Ukraine and Russia. In September 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers [Ukraine’s government] banned the export of any goods to Russia. According to the then forecasts of government officials, this should not have negative economic consequences since the export of Ukrainian goods to Russia amounted to slightly more than $4 million in the first few months of the full-scale invasion.

“We continue the sanctions pressure against Russia. I want to state that the export of goods to Russia has been de facto stopped since the beginning of the war. Now it has also been enshrined at the legal level,” Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister, said at that time. The government believed the embargo on exports to Russia would help Ukrainian companies establish legal clarity in non-fulfillment of contracts, which would enable them to “concentrate activity on other markets.”

In a conversation with NV, lawyer Rostyslav Kravets assured that the punishment for the trade of Ukrainian companies with Russia lies in the political plane.

“All this is kept in manual mode. As experience shows: the sanctions imposed on individuals and legal entities from Russia are primarily political rather than economic. Let’s take for example Kyivstar [mobile operator] or operators of lotteries, online casinos, which have a share of Russian capital [in Ukrainian companies]. If their economic interests conflict with those close to the [state] leadership, then such sanctions appear, and if there are certain agreements, then there are no such sanctions,” he explained.

In August 2023, Ostrohrud told NV in an interview about the pressure from law enforcement agencies on his company and connected it with the lobbying by certain persons for the procurement of Chinese-made first-aid kits for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

However, paramedics Kabrushko and Nazarova consider Kyivguma’s tactical first-aid kits to be Chinese rather than Ukrainian products. After all, more than two-thirds of a dozen components of the first-aid kit are Chinese.

“Bandages, tubes, gauze and the rest can really be made in Ukraine,” Nazarova told NV, adding that the most dangerous thing in Kyivguma’s first-aid kit is a low-quality Chinese-made tourniquet.

If it breaks or tears when applied to a limb after a combat wound, such a fighter risks rapid loss of blood and death. According to the paramedic’s experience, she saw such low-quality tourniquets in Kyivguma’s first-aid kits, but she has no relevant statistics on how often this manufacturer’s first-aid kits are equipped with such tourniquets.

“Chinese tourniquets under the Kyivguma, Paramedyk and Av Pharma brands are pure evil, which I will always fight against,” Nazarova wrote on X [formerly Twitter].

Instead, Ostrohrud told NV that their first-aid kits meet the Health Ministry’s technical requirements, while the first-aid kit from China has a different configuration.

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“I know very well what’s inside [the first-aid kit from China]. For example, it contains compressed gauze for EUR 0.8 ($0.87), whereas our kit includes a hemostatic agent for EUR 8 ($8.75). My first-aid kit cost UAH 2,190 ($57) last year, that’s EUR 55 ($60) for Lviv, and EUR 60 ($66) in the agreement with the Vinnytsia hospital, and there was almost six months between the delivery schedule. At the same time, the price of Chinese first-aid kit is $35-40.”

At the same time, he added that Kyivguma had also purchased several thousand Chinese first-aid kits at the beginning of the full-scale war due to disrupted logistics and lack of raw materials for production.

Nazarova, on the other hand, believes that businessmen who trade with Russia during the war should be imprisoned. However, if it turns out that the charges against Kyivguma aren’t confirmed, she assured: “We won’t forgive them the Chinese tourniquets, no matter what else they do.”

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine

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