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16 Mar, 2021 09:29

Russian science company hit by Biden’s ‘chemical weapons’ sanctions says US left firm in ‘economic Guantanamo’ without fair trial

Russian science company hit by Biden’s ‘chemical weapons’ sanctions says US left firm in ‘economic Guantanamo’ without fair trial

The head of a scientific equipment supplier targeted by officials in Washington over supposed links to a shadowy Russian “chemical weapons” program has insisted the US’ accusations are untrue and it’s being unfairly singled out.

Andrey Mezinov, Director General of Femteko LLC, a Moscow-based wholesaler specializing in technical supplies, described how he was surprised to discover the firm among a list of organizations facing new sanctions from America. In an interview with business outlet RBK published on Tuesday, he said “we are accused, as I understand it, of supporting the production and development of chemical weapons… this is just nonsense.”

According to the businessman, far from participating in the alleged development of deadly toxic agents, Femteko has only ever done business with defense research institutes in the country on two occasions. This included “spare parts for the detector of a gas chromatograph” for a laboratory at the 27th Scientific Center of the Ministry of Defence, which also found itself on the sanction list. The equipment is used in laboratories throughout the world to analyze the content of gases, and the 2017 delivery was reportedly worth only 408,000 rubles ($5,590).

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Last July, the firm also supplied forensic laboratory bottles to the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, for a total cost of 86,000 rubles ($1,180 ). “We knew what these would be used for,” Mezinov said, “but to say that the sale of such bottles supports the distribution [of chemical weapons]…”

While these purchases were made publicly accessible through tender processes and other documents, Mezinov insists that there was no off-the-books dealings with defense research institutes. However, he accepts that the equipment could potentially be used in a way that is undesirable for the US, “because we supply equipment that is versatile.” He added that, “most often it is used in the pharmaceutical industry, for the analysis of environmental substances, as well as in forensics, medicine, acute poisoning centers, anywhere.” At the same time, Femteko has also done business with US firms, and received clean bills of health as part of due-diligence inquiries.

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The business is now reportedly weighing up its legal options and considering how best to extricate itself from the list of sanctioned organizations. In theory, Mezinov said, he could overcome the measures by simply shutting the business and transferring its assets to a new one with a different name, but at present, US officials are “engaged in the most obvious lawlessness.” Comparing the current state of affairs to “economic Guantanamo,” a notorious US prison for suspected terrorists on the island of Cuba, he added that “I would like to receive explanations and by my own means prove the injustice and illegality of this decision.”

Femteko was among nine Russian firms included on the list of organizations that Washington claims are involved in an alleged secretive chemical weapons program, as well as three based in Germany and one based in Switzerland. At the time, American authorities said that the businesses were engaged in “the production of biological and chemical weapons," as well as “activities that are contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted that the US claims are not based in reality. "Russia declared and verified the destruction of all chemical weapons on its territory many years ago and fully complied with international conventions,” he said. “Russia has no chemical weapons.”

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