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19 Sep, 2022 19:42

Russia floats bioweapons proposal

Moscow wants to tighten a key international agreement regulating the deadly substances
Russia floats bioweapons proposal

Russia has urged amendments to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), floating three ideas to reinforce the landmark international agreement and make it more legally binding for its parties. The proposals were announced on Monday by Igor Kirillov, who heads Russia’s Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Troops.

The proposals were designed after a meeting of BCW member states in Geneva that were held earlier this month, Kirillov told a media briefing. The meeting was convened by Russia, which has accused the US and Ukraine of violating the agreement.

Moscow has raised allegations against the two counties of conducting secretive biological research on Ukrainian soil, claiming it had obtained incriminating evidence during the ongoing military operation. The Russian military has repeatedly released said materials to the public in batches since March.

“The participants of the meeting were provided copies of real documents previously publicized by the Russian Defense Ministry, as well as with material evidence confirming the implementation of military biological programs on the territory of Ukraine,” Kirillov said.

“None of the delegations had any doubts about the authenticity of the submitted documents, including in terms of the accumulation of pathogenic materials in Ukrainian laboratories,” he added.

Still, the BWC member-states meeting failed to provide any tangible result and only “a ‘zero’, non-binding statement was adopted,” Kirillov admitted. Due to a lack of reaction from the group, Russia has now proposed a set of changes to the BWC, supposed to make the document – which effectively bans creating and stockpiling bioweapons – more legally binding. 

Namely, Russia calls for the “resumption of negotiations on a legally binding protocol to the Convention, which includes lists of microorganisms, toxins, equipment” and also provides “an effective verification mechanism,” Kirillov suggested. The comprehensive list may work in a similar fashion as the list of banned materials provided with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the official suggested.

Moscow also calls for the creation of a “scientific advisory committee” within the group. The committee should have a broad “geographical representation” and equal rights for all of the participants. Russia has proposed making the control mechanisms more transparent, with additional “confidence-building measures,” suggesting the BWC participants must be obliged to declare their “activities in the biological sphere outside the national territory.”

The US has said that Russia is using its bioweapons claims, which Washington deems to be disinformation and a conspiracy theory, as a way to justify its military actions in Ukraine. The meeting in Geneva ended with the delegates of 35 out of 89 nations either dismissing the Russian claims or expressing support for the kind of research the US and Ukraine were conducting, the State Department said in a statement. Only seven nations expressed support for Russia: Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, and Venezuela.

Back in March, the UN said that it was not aware of this program and has neither the mandate nor the technical operational capacity to investigate it. In May, the UN stood by its initial statement.

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