Russian troops were reportedly infected with anthrax after unearthing a burial site for cattle while digging defensive trenches in southern Ukraine.
The unit was ordered into immediate quarantine, after doctors diagnosed cases of the deadly disease in at least two soldiers, according to Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol.
Two Russian servicemen were admitted to a hospital in Melitopol, which has been under occupation since March last year, before being discharged and sent to an unknown location, Fedorov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“The enemy unit is now in quarantine,” he said.
“Two Russian servicemen were first brought to Melitopol hospital, but after the diagnosis was confirmed they were quickly discharged and taken to an unknown destination.”
The Russian unit was probably digging trenches as part of an effort to reinforce their defences in the Zaporizhia region, ahead of the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Anthrax is a bacterial infection that can be spread via infected animal carcasses and food. Symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting blood.
The disease was endemic across much of the Soviet Union in the 20th century because of intense cattle farming.
More than 10,000 cases of anthrax were registered in humans each year at the beginning of the century, but this has decreased drastically because of improved health standards.
Exposed to radiation
It is not the first time the environment in Ukraine has wreaked havoc with Russian troops since their invasion last February.
When Moscow’s troops captured the areas around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, units were forced to dig trenches in highly radioactive soil in the exclusion zone.
At the time, Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, Energoatom, said the Russian troops would have been exposed to “significant doses of radiation” as they were not wearing protective clothing.
Officials claimed the soldiers were transported to a hospital in Gomel, Belarus, to be treated for radiation sickness, although this was never confirmed by the Belarusian or Russian authorities.