Russian surgeons wearing body armor have removed a live grenade from inside a Russian soldier who became a human bomb after the explosive got lodged in his chest.
Junior Sergeant Nikolay Pasenko survived an attack by Ukrainian forces that left him with a grenade jammed just below his heart.
The explosive – fired from a Ukrainian automatic grenade launcher – shattered his ribs and damaged a lung before getting stuck near his spine.
The deadly bomb showed up on X-rays and the soldier initially didn’t want to have surgery but was convinced by doctors despite the risks involved.
“I was against it. I did not want the doctors to suffer as the munitions could have exploded,” said Pasenko.
But the medics war body armour vests and began operating despite warnings they could be blown up mid-surgery.
“So we’ll blow up together,” replied head military surgeon Lt-Col Dmitry Kim moments before performing the op.
Medical experts said the chances of an explosion were “extremely high” but failure to operate would have left the Russian soldier at risk of fatal bleeding.
“Despite this, the military doctors together with their civilian counterparts donned body armour under their medical gowns and proceeded with this utmost intricate surgery,” said a statement from the Russian defence ministry.
The operation was hailed a success and the soldier later woke up to thank the “hero” surgeons.
“We were warned there was a risk of ammunition detonation, but no one refused,” said Lt-Col Kim, whose team moved closer to the Russian-Ukrainian border from Moscow to tend to wounded soldiers.
“The ammunition was located between the aorta and the inferior vena cava.
“It’s not every day that you take an [explosive] out of a person, and in a place where moving to the right or left can lead to the death of the patient.
“When the ammunition ended up in a bucket of sand, everyone exhaled, smiled and laughed.”
A second operating theatre and a full team of surgeons was on standby in case the ordnance had detonated during the “unique operation”.
Lt-Col Kim said that as they operated they “didn’t know if the ammunition had detonated or not” and opened up the soldier to find it hadn’t – increasing the risk of an explosion.
A relieved Pasenko said he was wounded two weeks ago when his battalion was ambushed in a forest in Ukraine.
He said: “We took it, in a fierce battle. I did not understand what happened. There was a blow to the edge of the armour and that was it.
“I did not lose consciousness – I just continued to move.”
“Now you see that I am sitting in front of you,” said the junior sergeant.
“My thanks to surgeon Dmitry Kim and I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life.”
A spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Defence said: “The patient was admitted with a wound that had penetrated his chest.
“The examination revealed that the miraculously unexploded ordnance had pierced his ribs and lungs and got lodged close to the spinal cord, between the aorta and the inferior vena cava near the heart.”