What’s Behind Washington’s Denial of Biowarfare Weapons Program in Ukraine?

State Dept. Under Secretary Victoria Nuland’s exchange with Sen. Marco Rubio during the Tuesday Senate hearings triggered a heated debate, given that Washington had previously strongly denied the presence of any US-run biolabs in Ukraine.

On 11 March, the UN Security Council convened at Russia’s request to discuss the “biological activities of the US on the territory of Ukraine”. Earlier, the Russian Ministry of Defence discovered 30 biolabs in Ukraine and released documents indicating collaboration between Kiev and the Pentagon on studying highly dangerous pathogens.

“The US State Department says that the public mission of the biolabs in Ukraine is about securing Cold War era Soviet bioweapons”, says former Pentagon analyst and retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski. “The companies that operate and have constructed these labs competed far more recently for contracts awarded by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), so the Cold war or Soviet era weapons disposal rings hollow.

In fact, the successful 2014 US colour revolution in Ukraine opened the door for fresh DTRA contracts, and these facilities appear to be relatively modern. What they are working on is not strictly defensive, and Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland publicly stated as much before the US Congress a few days ago”.

Nuland’s exchange with Senator Marco Rubio during the Tuesday hearings at the Senate triggered a heated debate, given that Washington had previously strongly denied the presence of any US-run biolabs in Ukraine.

When asked whether Ukraine possesses “chemical or biological weapons”, Nuland admitted that “Ukraine has biological research facilities.” What’s more, as US independent journalist Glenn Greenwald later remarked, she immediately “destroyed… any hope to depict such ‘facilities’ as benign or banal” by adding: “We are now in fact quite concerned that Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of [those labs], 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”.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland speaks at a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on January 11, 2022.

On the same day, the National Pulse, a US-British conservative media outlet, recovered a deleted article titled “Biolab Opens in Ukraine”, dating back to 18 June 2010. The article said that the US had built a level-3 biosafety lab in the Ukrainian city of Odessa to study dangerous pathogens, including anthrax, tularemia, and Q fever, “used by bioterrorists”.

2011 report from the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Anticipating Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-Containment Biological Laboratories, also cited by the National Pulse, further reveals that the Odessa lab was reconstructed through “a cooperative agreement” between the Pentagon and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine that started in 2005 – following the US-backed 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine – and served as “Interim Central Reference Laboratory with a depozitarium (pathogen collection)”. A separate document, cited by the media outlet, named the pathogens the facility allegedly conducted research on, including: the Marburg, Ebola, Lassa, Junin, Machupo, and Simian B viruses, the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, as well as other viruses of pathogenicity group II.Get back in the game, jump on our major sale at the store now!

Earlier this week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson raised a red flag over the lack of transparency about the Ukrainian biolabs’ research of dangerous pathogens and the US government’s role in it. The host quoted Robert Pope, the head of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program at the Pentagon, who claimed in a 25 February interview that some Ukrainian biolabs may hold pathogen strains left over from the Soviet bioweapons programme preserved in freezers for research purposes. According to Carlson, this sounds bizarre, given US mainstream media claims that since 2005, the Pentagon has been busy with “eliminat[ing] biological weapons left behind by the Soviets” in Ukraine.

“White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki then denounced the reports as ‘false’ and ‘preposterous’ and described them as ‘the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years’ – as if the US never engaged in disinformation operations of its own”, says independent journalist, author, and writer Daniel Lazare. “Needless to say, such rhetoric did nothing to reduce suspicions, but raised them all the more”.

Screengrab of Russian Defence Ministry briefing showing US-sponsored biolabs on Ukraininan territory: Russian Ministry of Defense

Biological Warfare Weapons

Meanwhile, on 10 March the Russian Ministry of Defence released documents related to the suspected military biological activities of the United States on the territory of Ukraine. The US Defence Threat Reduction Agency played the leading role in financing and developing components for biological weapons, according to the Russian MoD.

In particular, Project UP-4, conducted with the participation of laboratories in Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa, studied the possibility of the spread of dangerous infections through migrating birds; Project R-781reportedly studied bats as carriers of viral pathogens, including plague, leptospirosis, brucellosis, coronaviruses, and filoviruses that can be transmitted to humans, thus making them “potential biological weapons agents”, according to the MoD. Among the goals pursued in the Ukrainian biolabs was the creation of bioagents that would be capable of targeting certain ethnic groups, the Defence Ministry stated.

On 6 March, the Russian MoD released Ukrainian Ministry of Health documents containing instructions to all biological laboratories to urgently eliminate stored stocks of dangerous pathogens amid Russia’s special operation.

Judging from the incoming reports, it appears that the US carried out bio warfare programmes in Ukraine in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 (BWATA), according to Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, who drafted BWATA and has been fighting against the spread of bioweapons since 1983.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005

“These bio warfare labs in Ukraine are offensive biological warfare weapons labs that have been set up by the Pentagon to research, develop, test biological weapons”, says Boyle. “Yes, that is true. This is what is going on… It violates the BWC and all American citizens who were involved in any of these biological warfare labs in Ukraine violated my Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that provides for life in prison. And if you take a look at these biological warfare labs, they have surrounded Russia in different countries there with these offensive biological warfare weapons labs. They have nothing to do with scientific research. This is run by the Pentagon. The Pentagon is interested in warfare and killing people, it’s that simple”.

All bioweapons centres in Ukraine have to be secured and decontaminated by Russian professional experts on biological weapons and then rendered permanently inoperable so that they can never be used again for any reason, according to the professor.

Boyle noted that American neoconservatives, an influential political group Victoria Nuland is tied with, had long flirted with the idea of biological warfare weapons which could target specific genotypes and be used as a “politically useful tool”. According to Boyle, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a US major neocon think tank, openly discussed that in their manifesto “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (2000), cited by the academic in his book “Biowarfare and Terrorism” (2005).

“There is no moral or national security justification for this kind of project”, says former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, while commenting on the suspected US biowarfare programme in Ukraine. “This now explains, at least to me, why the United States was so insistent on provoking this war with Russia. Covering up a bioweapons program is almost impossible. My country is proving to be an international outlaw”.

Ekaterina Blinova | Sputnik 

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