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10 Mar, 2022 12:58

US-funded labs in Ukraine dealt with bat coronavirus, Moscow claims

Russia’s Ministry of Defense cited documents it claims it captured at the facilities, while the US denies developing bioweapons
US-funded labs in Ukraine dealt with bat coronavirus, Moscow claims

US-funded laboratories in Ukraine captured by Russian forces last week were conducting experiments with bat coronavirus and other dangerous pathogens, Moscow claimed on Thursday, citing documents seized at the facilities. There were allegedly plans to move on to African swine fever virus and to anthrax.

Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Defense, said that “experiments with samples of bat coronavirus were being carried out in the bio-laboratories, created and funded [by the US] in Ukraine, as documents show.” The Russian official went on to claim that in 2022 the US was intending to “work on bird, bat and reptile pathogens,” with plans to move on to research into whether those animals can “transmit African swine fever virus and anthrax.

According to Konashenkov, the scientists were looking into, among other things, the possibility of pathogen transmission by wild birds migrating between Russia, Ukraine and other neighboring countries.

On Sunday, Russia announced that it had captured several laboratories in Ukraine. If Moscow officials are to be believed, staff at some of the facilities told Russian troops that particularly dangerous pathogens, including plague and anthrax, had been destroyed following the start of Moscow’s military offensive against Ukraine on February 24.

Konashenkov surmised that the Pentagon feared that its “secret biological experiments” would be uncovered, ordering Ukrainian authorities to dispose of evidence pointing to such research.

Responding to the allegations voiced by Russia on Wednesday, Ned Price, spokesperson for the US Department of State, accused Moscow of “intentionally spreading outright lies.” According to Price, similar claims made previously by Russia “have been debunked conclusively and repeatedly over many years.” The US official proceeded to suggest that the latest pathogen allegations were nothing more than a pretext invented by the Kremlin “in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine.

Washington insisted that 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.” The US Department of State pointed the finger at Moscow instead, accusing it of having “active chemical and biological weapons programs.

Ukraine, too, has denied the presence of any facilities developing biological weapons on its territory.

The American embassy in Kiev confirmed that the US Department of Defense “collaborates with partner countries,” but only to “counter the threat of outbreaks.

China, however, has made it clear that it is not entirely convinced by America’s explanations, and urged Washington to disclose relevant data “as soon as possible.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, its Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Beijing had information indicating that the said laboratories in Ukraine were just the “tip of an iceberg.” Zhao went on to claim that the Pentagon “controls 336 biological laboratories in 30 countries around the world,” with the secret program operating under the guise of efforts to “reduce biosecurity risks” and to strengthen “global public health.