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10 Mar, 2022 22:35

Top US spies explain Ukrainian ‘biolabs’

US intelligence community has pushed back against Russian allegations of “bioweapons” labs operating in Ukraine
Top US spies explain Ukrainian ‘biolabs’

The heads of US intelligence agencies rejected allegations of bioweapons research and development taking place in Ukraine with Washington’s during Senate hearings on Thursday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Ukraine “operates a little over a dozen,” admitting that the US has “provided assistance” to the facilities at least in the past. Said “assistance” came only “in the context of biosafety”, she claimed, adding that it was “something we have done with a variety of different countries.”

“We do not assess that Ukraine is pursuing either biological weapons or nuclear weapons,” Haines said, dismissing the new allegations as “consistent with long-standing Russian efforts to accuse the United States of sponsoring bioweapons” and a “classic move by the Russians.”

A similar statement was produced during the hearings by the CIA Director and a former US ambassador to Moscow William Burns. The CIA boss flatly accused Russia of possessing biological and chemical weaponry itself, suggesting the new allegations came as a prelude for a “false-flag operations” with the illicit weaponry.

“Unlike Russia, which does have chemical and weapons and has used them, and does do biological weapons research and has for years, Ukraine has neither,” he claimed, adding that Russian “propaganda” gave the American spies “pretty serious concerns.”

The allegations of US-sponsored bioweapons research taking place in secretive laboratories scattered across Ukraine were raised Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state. Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

On Monday, the commander of the Russian radiological, chemical and biological defense force, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov said the secretive Ukrainian laboratories started hastily destroying the documents and materials they had been working on amid the offensive, including highly pathogenic bacterial and viral agents. Still, Moscow was able to obtain some documents related to the covert research, he claimed.

The official further elaborated on the matter on Thursday, alleging that the US has been directly involved in the research. The laboratories located in Kiev, Odessa and Kharkov have been allegedly working on a project dubbed UP-4, that explored prospects of using migratory birds for spreading pathogens, including the highly contagious H5N1 virus, Kirillov claimed. Some 145 species of birds were studied under the project, with two of them receiving special attention as their routes lay primarily over Russia’s territory.

Over the past few days, multiple top US officials commented on Moscow’s allegations, producing varying degrees of denial. US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, for instance, confirmed that Washington has been involved in efforts to ensure that no “materials” from the biolabs fall into Russia’s hands.

She did not elaborate, however, on the nature of the “biological research facilities” or the degree of the US involvement in their work. Others, including US State Department spokesperson Ned Price and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki opted for flat denial. The latter also accused Moscow of setting the stage for a potential “false flag” attack, adding that “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.”