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10 Mar, 2022 02:05

US responds to Russian bioweapons claims

Washington has insisted that it hasn't been operating any chemical or biological laboratories in Ukraine
US responds to Russian bioweapons claims

The US has rejected a Russian allegation that it has helped to operate “biolabs” in Ukraine working with highly dangerous pathogens. Moscow has claimed that Kiev is scrambling to destroy the materials and cover up a possible violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

“The United States does not own or operate any chemical or biological laboratories in Ukraine, it is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention, and it does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.

The US official argued that Moscow, and not Washington, was running “active chemical and biological weapons programs,” but stopped short of citing any evidence in his statement.   

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed Price’s remark, also accusing Moscow of setting the stage for a potential “false flag” attack, a charge made previously by administration officials. 

“We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine or to create a false flag operation using them,” she said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

Psaki argued that Russia “has a track record of accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating.” She called the latest allegations “an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify the further premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”

Washington’s denials came hours after Russia’s Foreign Ministry called for strengthening the international bioweapons treaty by adding a mechanism to verify compliance by member nations. The Russian military claimed on Monday that Ukrainian authorities had ordered the “hasty” destruction of dangerous pathogens that were stored at US-backed biological labs across the former Soviet republic.

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland acknowledged on Tuesday that Ukraine has “biological research facilities.” Speaking under oath in a Senate hearing, she said that US officials are “quite concerned” that Russian forces may seek to gain control of the labs, and were “working” with Kiev to prevent this from happening.

Moscow attacked Kiev in late February, following a seven-year stand off over Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk peace agreements, and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularise the status of the regions inside the Ukrainian state.