US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nulan has also confirmed Ukraine was asked to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s biological research facilities
Photo: A logo is pictured at the World Health Organization (WHO) building in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020. Picture taken February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
March 10 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population, the agency told Reuters on Thursday.
Biosecurity experts say Russia’s movement of troops into Ukraine and bombardment of its cities have raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens, should any of those facilities be damaged.
Like many other countries, Ukraine has public health laboratories researching how to mitigate the threats of dangerous diseases affecting both animals and humans including, most recently, COVID-19. Its labs have received support from the United States, the European Union and the WHO.
In response to questions from Reuters about its work with Ukraine ahead of and during Russia’s invasion, the WHO said in an email that it has collaborated with Ukrainian public health labs for several years to promote security practices that help prevent “accidental or deliberate release of pathogens.”
“As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills,” the WHO, a United Nations agency, said.
The WHO would not say when it had made the recommendation nor did it provide specifics about the kinds of pathogens or toxins housed in Ukraine’s laboratories. The agency also did not answer questions about whether its recommendations were followed.
Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and at their embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.
Ukraine’s laboratory capabilities are at the center of a growing information war since Russia began moving troops into Ukraine two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova repeated a longstanding claim that the United States operates a biowarfare lab in Ukraine, an accusation that has been repeatedly denied by Washington and Kyiv.
Zakharova said that documents unearthed by Russian forces in Ukraine showed “an emergency attempt to erase evidence of military biological programmes” by destroying lab samples.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm her information. read more
In response, a Ukrainian presidential spokesperson said: “Ukraine strictly denies any such allegation.” U.S. government spokespeople also strongly denied Zakharova’s accusations, saying that Russia may use its claims as a pretext to deploy its own chemical or biological weapons.
The WHO statement made no reference to biowarfare. The agency said it encourages all parties to cooperate in “the safe and secure disposal of any pathogens they come across, and to reach out for technical assistance as needed.” It offered to help wherever possible with technical guidance and coordination.
The United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia’s request, diplomats said, to discuss Moscow’s claims, presented without evidence, of U.S. biological activities in Ukraine. read more
Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Howard Goller
11 March 2022 | Kevin Read | WSWS
Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland on Tuesday, when asked by Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida) whether there are chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, said that “biological research facilities” actually exist there.
While she did not mention whether the US was involved in the labs, in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she quickly veered to the State Department’s efforts “to prevent these research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces.” In a carefully choreographed conversation with Rubio, she explained that if there was a biological or chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, it was “undoubtedly” carried out by Russia.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Rubio and Nuland:
Sen. Marco Rubio: Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?
Victoria Nuland: Ukraine has biological research facilities and right now we are quite concerned that Russian troops, Russian armed forces, might try to take control of them. That’s why we’re working with the Ukrainians to prevent these research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.
Sen. Marco Rubio: You are certainly aware that the Russian propaganda groups are already spreading all sorts of information that they have uncovered a plot by Ukrainians to use biological weapons in the country in coordination with NATO.
If there is a biological or chemical weapons incident in Ukraine, would you doubt that the Russians are 100 percent behind it?
Victoria Nuland: In my opinion, there is no doubt about that, Senator. And it’s a classic Russian technique to blame others for what they’re planning to do.Rubio Speaks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine, Condemns Talks with Maduro
Nuland’s extraordinary admission of bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine confirms reports from Moscow that the US has a bioweapons program in the country. It also proves that the Pentagon’s claims that the Russian reports were “absurd” and Russian President Zelenskyy’s denials that there was no such program were entirely false.
Reuters reported Wednesday morning: “Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia uncovered evidence of the alleged program during its so-called military operation in Ukraine, which began on February 24.”
It went on to say that Zakharova said Russia had “documents proving that after February 24 the Ukrainian Ministry of Health ordered the destruction of samples of plague, cholera, anthrax and other warfare agents… We can already conclude that.” components of biological weapons were developed in Ukrainian biological laboratories in the immediate vicinity of the territory of our country.”
China’s foreign ministry responded to the revelations on Tuesday by demanding that the US provide a “full account” of bioweapons research that the Russian side said was being carried out in Ukraine and US-funded.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “Most importantly, since the US knows these labs best, the US should release relevant specific details, including what pathogens are stockpiled and what research has been conducted to ensure the health and safety of the labs, as soon as possible.” To ensure people in Ukraine, the surrounding states and even the world.”
The Russian Defense Ministry on March 6 gave details about the bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine. Major General Igor Konashenkov indicated that the development of deadly disease pathogens for biological warfare in these laboratories was funded by the Pentagon.
Konashenkov told Russia’s TASS news agency: “Evidently, since the start of the military special operation, the Pentagon had serious reservations about announcing the conduct of secret biological experiments on Ukrainian territory.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a damage-limitation tweet Wednesday afternoon that failed to mention Nuland’s testimony before Congress and called the Russian and Chinese reports “absurd” and a “disinformation campaign.” Psaki stated that the US “complies with all obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.”
Psaki went on to claim that Russia “has a proven history of using chemical weapons, including attempted assassination of Putin’s political opponents such as Alexei Navalny… [Russia] continues to support the Assad regime in Syria, which has used chemical weapons on numerous occasions.”
But the alleged Novichok attack on Navalny – the leader of the imperialist-backed opposition in Russia – in December 2020 has never been proven and quickly turned into an international propaganda campaign aimed at furthering US preparations for war against Russia Force Biden’s inauguration as president. As for the alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack in Duoma in 2018, WikiLeaks has since released documents that expose the incident as a carefully planned staging designed to justify a US, UK and French attack on the government in Damascus.
Psaki ended her tweet by claiming that Russia “has historically accused the West of the very wrongs it commits.” Nuland’s testimony on Tuesday clearly debunked this.
Nuland’s devastating revelations show the world that US imperialism was preparing for war long before Russia invaded Ukraine. The mainstream media are surprised. No major American news outlet has reported on it so far, apparently because they are awaiting their direction from the White House. At the same time, however, they describe Russia’s now-confirmed allegations about bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine as “false narrative” and “conspiracy theory disproved.”
Newsweek released a report Wednesday afternoon stating, “Indeed, the US Department of Defense has never had a biological laboratory in Ukraine . ” created in 1991 with the aim of reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction after the fall of the Soviet Union.”
The disclosure of Pentagon-backed bioweapons development in Ukraine must warn the international working class of what US imperialism is preparing militarily against Russia. With decades of wars of aggression that have left millions dead in the Middle East and North Africa, there can be no illusions about the extent of the lies, provocations and military force the US is willing to use to achieve its geostrategic goals.