US Is Protecting ‘Biological Research Facilities’ in Ukraine From Russia: Official
From The Epoch Times By March 9, 2022
The United States is working to prevent Russia from taking control of Ukraine’s “biological research facilities,” a U.S. official said.
At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland was askedby Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) whether Ukraine has chemical or biological weapons.
“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which in fact we are now quite concerned that Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of, so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces, should they approach,” Nuland responded.
Rubio commented, “I’m sure you’re aware that the Russian propaganda groups are already putting all kinds of information about how they’ve uncovered a plot by Ukrainians to release biological weapons in the country and with NATO’s coordination.
“If there’s a bio or chemical weapon incident or attack inside Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that 100 percent it would be the Russians that would be behind it?”
“There is no doubt in my mind, senator,” Nuland responded. “It is classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they’re planning to do themselves.”
Russia has repeatedly perpetuated the claim that U.S.-funded laboratories in Ukraine are developing biological warfare weapons, but the United States and Ukraine maintain the laboratories seek to prevent bioweapons and pathogens.
The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement on Telegram accusing Ukraine of having destroyed pathogens being studied at a lab in Ukraine that the ministry says is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
“During a special military operation, the facts of the Kiev regime’s emergency cleanup of traces of a military biological program funded by the US Department of Defence implemented in Ukraine were revealed,” the Russian Ministry of Defense alleged in its statement on March 6.
The statement claims that the ministry received documents that showed the Ukrainian Ministry of Health “sent an instruction to all biological laboratories” on Feb. 24 to urgently destroy the “stored stocks of dangerous pathogens” including plague, anthrax, tularemia, and cholera.
In a separate statement on March 7, the Russian ministry claimed that Ukraine “has united a chain of more than 30 biological laboratories” ordered by the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Chinese regime also appeared to repeat Russia’s allegations about the biological laboratories on March 7. A U.S. State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the allegation is “Russian propaganda and total nonsense.”
“Such Russian claims have been debunked conclusively and repeatedly over many years. As we’ve said all along, Russia will invent false pretexts to justify their horrific actions in Ukraine,” the spokesperson added.
Such allegations from Russia were being propagated in state-run media weeks prior to its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The British Defence Ministry on March 8 noted in a statement, “Since the end of February there has been a notable intensification of Russian accusations that Ukraine is developing nuclear or biological weapons.
“These narratives are long-standing but are currently likely being amplified as part of a retrospective justification for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
US, Ukraine Say Labs Seek to Prevent Bioweapons
The DTRA previously said in a video posted in January that a program it runs—the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program—”does not develop biological weapons.”
In the same video, Chris Park, a State Department official, told the United Nations that Russia’s and China’s allegations of “suspicious activity” at laboratories in Ukraine is “pure disinformation.”
One component of the CTR program is the Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP). The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in April 2020 issued a statement that said the BTRP “works with the Ukrainian Government to consolidate and secure pathogens and toxins of security concern in Ukrainian government facilities, while allowing for peaceful research and vaccine development.”
The program also works “to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.”
“Our joint efforts help to ensure that dangerous pathogens do not fall into the wrong hands,” it said.
The CTR Program was begun shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. One of its goals was to reduce the threat of existing weapons of mass destruction programs in former Soviet Republics.
Under the program, Ukraine and the United States partnered in two agreements, one in 1993 and one in 2005.
Ukraine’s main security agency, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), elaborated on the agreements in a May 2020 Facebook post.
“Since 1993 there is an agreement to provide assistance to our state in eliminating strategic nuclear weapons and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. One of [the] points is the timely detection and prevention of outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens,” it said.
The SBU also said that Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a framework agreement in 2005 (pdf) to prevent the “proliferation of technology, pathogens and knowledge that could be used in the development of biological weapons.”
The statement said that within the framework of the 2005 agreement, a number of state laboratories in the Ukrainian cities of Odessa, Kharkiv, Lviv, Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Kherson, Dnipropetrovs “have been upgraded” through certain repair projects or the updating of equipment.
The SBU at also declared there are “no foreign biological laboratories in Ukraine,” and that the laboratories involved are owned and funded by the Ukrainian government.
“We emphasize that these laboratories are funded from the state budget subordinated to the Ministry of Health and the State Service of Ukraine on food safety and consumer protection,” it added.
Andrew Weber, a senior fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks and a member of the Arms Control Association board of directors, also told AFP on March 3 that the Pentagon “has never had a biological laboratory in Ukraine.”
He told PolitiFact that the CTR Program “has provided technical support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public health laboratories,” and that the mission of the health labs “is analogous to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The labs “have recently played an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Weber added.