Theory about US-funded Bioweapon Labs in Ukraine is baseless

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Theory about US-funded Bioweapon Labs in Ukraine is baseless

WASHINGTON — Prominent social media users and conservative voices have amplified an unfounded theory propagated by Russian state media, accusing the United States of funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine.

There is no evidence to support the claims that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, the White HouseThe Pentagon and the State Department have all categorically denied it.

There are biological laboratories inside Ukraine, and since 2005, the United States has provided support to a number of institutions. stop Production of biological weapons. But Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have misleadingly cited comments from US officials as evidence that laboratories are or are conducting research on biological weapons.

“Out of nowhere, the Biden official in charge of Ukraine confirmed the story,” Mr Carlson said at his event on Thursday night. “Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State, casually noted in Tuesday’s Senate hearing that in fact, yes, the Biden administration does fund a series of biolabs in Ukraine.”

Republican Representative Thomas Massey of Kentucky painted Ms Nuland’s remarks as a “Serious penetration.” Former president’s son Donald Trump Jr tweeted that his comments fueled the claim “Conspiracies for fact.”

Mr Carlson also pointed to an interview with Robert Pope, director of the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which helps countries in the former Soviet Union secure or eliminate nuclear and chemical weapons.

“Scientists are scientists, as Pope says, they don’t want to destroy all bio-weapons,” Mr. Carlson continued in his section. “Instead, they are using them to conduct new bio-weapon research — that’s what he said.”

Mr Carlson rubbished those comments by Mrs Nuland and Mr Pope.

In testimony to Congress this week, Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, was asked by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida whether Ukraine has chemical or biological weapons.

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, in fact, we are now quite worried Russian forces, Russian forces are seeking to regain control,” he replied. “So we’re working with Ukrainians on how to prevent those research materials from falling into the hands of the Russian military, if they make contact.”

If there was a biological or chemical weapon attack inside Ukraine, Mr. Rubio asked, would there be any doubt that Russia was behind it?

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“There’s no doubt in my mind, senator, and it’s classic Russian technique to blame the other person for what they themselves are planning to do,” replied Ms Nuland.

The State Department said Nuland during her testimony was referring to Ukrainian clinical and biodefense laboratories, which are separate from biological weapons facilities. Rather, these biodefense laboratories combat biological threats across the country, the department said.

Mr Rubio offered the same explanation at another Congressional hearing on Thursday, noting that “there is a difference between a bioweapons facility and a researcher.”

In reference to Mr Pope on Thursday, Mr Carlson was distorting a February interview given by Mr Pope to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a non-profit organization and publication.

Mr Pope warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could damage laboratories in the country that conduct research and disease surveillance and are backed by the United States. He noted that some facilities may contain pathogens once used for Soviet-era bioweapons programs, but he emphasized that Ukrainian laboratories do not currently have the capacity to manufacture bioweapons.

“There is no place that still has any kind of infrastructure to research or produce biological weapons,” Pope said. “Being a scientific scientist, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these strain collections in some of these laboratories still contain pathogenic strains that go back to the origins of that program.”

In a March interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Mr Pope also echoed Nuland’s concerns about laboratories falling into Russia’s hands. He spoke specifically about the Pentagon’s support of 14 veterinary laboratories that provide sampling and diagnostic capabilities to detect infectious diseases to Ukraine.

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“Should the Russian military capture one of these facilities, we are concerned that Russia will fabricate ‘evidence’ of nefarious activity in an attempt to give credence to its ongoing misinformation about these facilities,” he said. They said.

The United Nations Security Council convened a meeting on Friday regarding Russia’s allegations of biological weapons in Ukraine. The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said the United Nations was “not aware of any biological weapons program.”

Both Ukraine and Russia have signed a treaty outlawing biological weapons. While there is no independent body that verifies that countries are adhering to the treaty, known as the Biological Weapons Convention, Ms Nakamitsu said that a concerned country can recourse to its peers in a number of ways. or resolve doubts, such as by reviewing annual reports and filing complaints about potential breaches to the Security Council for investigation. That reporting mechanism, she pointed out, “has never been activated.”

For years, Russia has claimed that former Soviet countries were manufacturing biological weapons in laboratories funded by the United States. Experts and journalists have found no evidence for these claims.

Philip Lentzos, a specialist in biological hazards at King’s College London, wrote in 2018 that he and other international experts were given full access to the Luger Center for Public Health Research, a laboratory in the nation of Georgia that receives funding from the United States. Went. ,

“Our group didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, or we wouldn’t expect to see in such a legitimate facility,” Dr. Lentzos wrote.

Similarly, crisis reporting outlet Koda Story featured highly sensitive areas of the laboratory, including the “pathogen museum,” and reported that Russian journalists had also visited and Russian scientists had previously worked there.

“If this were a secret weapons facility, would we be so open to everyone?” The director of the lab told the publication.

edward wong Contributed to reporting.

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