Do Ukrainian biolabs violate the ban on biological weapons programs? — Analysis

It is necessary to explain what really happened in the Ukrainian laboratory that was working with extremely dangerous pathogens

Unless the US or Ukraine can show otherwise, all evidence suggests that Kiev has biological laboratories. This could have been in violation of the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 8, testifying on the US and international response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The veteran US diplomat answered questions after delivering her opening remarks. The question of Senator Marco Rubio from Florida stood out. “Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?”He asked. 

Nuland was very deliberate in answering the question. “Ukraine has biological research facilities which, in fact, we’re now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of, so we are working with the Ukrainians on how we can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach,”Sie said. 

Moscow calls for strengthening bioweapons treaty

It was notable that this topic was not mentioned at all in her speech. The purpose of Rubio’s question wasn’t to pin Nuland into a corner, but rather set up the follow-on question, designed to deflect a very discomforting issue into a propaganda opportunity for the US government.

“I’m sure you’re aware,” Rubio said, “that the Russian propaganda groups are already putting out there all kinds of information about how they have uncovered a plot by the Ukrainians to unleash biological weapons in the country, and with NATO’s coordination.”Before asking the question, Senator paused. “If there is a biological or chemical weapon incident or attack inside Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that 100% it would be the Russians behind it?”

This question was answered by Nuland with greater authority “There is no doubt in my mind, Senator. And, in fact, it is a classic Russian technique to blame the other guy for what they are planning to do themselves.”

Rubio was right about one thing – the Russians were having a field day about the “biological research facilities”Nuland was very reticent to discuss. Maria Zakharova (spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) announced that “We [Russia] confirm that, during the special military operation in Ukraine, the Kiev regime was found to have been concealing traces of a military biological program implemented with funding from the United States Department of Defense.”

According to Zakharova, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, on February 24 – the first day of the Russian offensive – had ordered all the Ukrainian biological laboratories to “urgently” eradicate the stored reserves of “highly hazardous pathogens of plague, anthrax, rabbit fever, cholera and other lethal diseases.” She said the documentation on the “urgent eradication” of the pathogens was “received from employees of Ukrainian laboratories.” 

Zakharova acknowledged that the Russian Ministry of Defense was still working to assess all documents, but she said Russia had been able to reach a conclusion. “that components of biological weapons were being developed in Ukrainian laboratories in direct proximity to Russian territory.” 

“The urgent eradication of highly hazardous pathogens on February 24 was ordered to prevent exposing a violation of Article I of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) by Ukraine and the United States,”She added. 

US responds to Russian bioweapons claims

The BTWC Article 1 states: “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain:

  1. Any microbial agents or biological agents, including toxins, no matter their origin, production methods, types or quantities, that are not justifiable for any prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purpose;
  2. Weapons, equipment and means of delivery that can be used to deliver such agents or toxic substances for hostile purposes or in conflict are prohibited.

Earlier, the US Embassy in Kiev published information relating to what it described as a “Biological Threat Reduction Program,”A collaboration was established between the US Department of Defense, Ukraine and its government. This data shows that “The [biological threat reduction] program accomplishes its bio-threat reduction mission through development of a bio-risk management culture; international research partnerships; and partner capacity for enhanced bio-security, bio-safety, and bio-surveillance measures.”The US Embassy says that “the Biological Threat Reduction Program’s priorities in Ukraine are to consolidate and secure pathogens and toxins of security concern and to continue to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.”

It all seems innocuous enough. If true, it appears to be in compliance with Article 1 of The BTWC “prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.”

It is possible that some of the biological programs administered by Defense Threat Reduction Agency might have more sinister purposes. Dilyana Gaytandzhieva (a Bulgarian journalist and investigative journalist) has done extensive research on this topic. “The US Army regularly produces deadly viruses, bacteria and toxins in direct violation of the UN Convention on the prohibition of Biological Weapons. Unwittingly, hundreds of thousands are exposed to deadly pathogens and other incurable illnesses. Bio-warfare scientists using diplomatic cover test man-made viruses at Pentagon bio laboratories in 25 countries across the world,”Sie claimed. 

Gaytandzhieva’s work has been dismissed by the US as ‘pro-Russian propaganda.’ But the inescapable fact is that the US does not have a clean record when it comes to compliance with the BTWC. So-called “bio-defense”In the past, this was used by the US in order to bypass, or outright violate the BTWC. The most flagrant example of this was the CIA-led “Project Clear Vision,They attempted to reverse engineer and test Soviet-era equipment from 1997 through 2000. “bomblet”designed to disperse biological agent, such as anthrax. The Clinton government debated whether to allow this. “Clear Vision”Program was stopped in 2000 after violating the BTWC.

Lee Camp: America’s impressive history of bioweapons attacks against its own people

There is no need to worry about any such malfeasance at the biolabs in Ukraine, however, the director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, Robert Pope, recently told reporters. “What we have today… are small amounts of various pathogens that by and large are things that are collected out of their environment that they need for research to be able to legitimately surveil disease and develop vaccines against.”

Pope claims that the Ukrainians were a nation of tens of thousands. “more pathogens in more places than we recommend,”His organization was helping Ukrainian researchers to organize their frozen collection of infectious diseases with the aim of preserving genetic data via DNA sequencing. “All of that, obviously, has been derailed here with the recent events,”He stated. 

Pope’s biggest concern was that if these biolabs lost electrical power for any extended time, then the frozen samples would thaw out. “If the ventilation system is damaged, or the building itself is damaged, and these now ambient-temperature pathogens are able to escape the facility, then they can be potentially infectious in the region around the facility,”He stated. 

He expressed the hope that these facilities wouldn’t be intentionally attacked. “I think the Russians know enough about the kinds of pathogens that are stored in biological research laboratories that I don’t think they would deliberately target a laboratory. But what I do have concerns about is that they would… be accidentally damaged during this Russian invasion.”

Pope painted a benign picture of the pathogens that were stored in the facilities where he worked, but he also left some clues about what could happen. Although he noted that most of the biolabs found in Ukraine were new, “others date back to the Soviet-era and the country’s bioweapons program.” Some of these older laboratories, Pope said, could hold pathogen strains dating back to the Soviet biowarfare programs. “Scientists being scientists, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these strain collections in some of these laboratories still have pathogen strains that go all the way back to the origins of that program.”

If this is the case, then the Ukrainian labs could very well be the repository of Anthrax 836, an extremely deadly strain of that disease specifically developed to be delivered in warheads mounted on SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles operating from Ukraine.

US comments on Ukrainian ‘biolabs’

It would appear that this would place the laboratories in violation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. This Convention prohibits acquisition and retention of pathogens. “that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.”

Anthrax 836 (and other Soviet-era bio weapons) no longer exists. Research to prevent exposure is not necessary. Retention of Soviet-era pathogens for biological warfare would only be possible if they were to be used in a future program or to provide covert operations to link targets to criminal activity.

If Marco Rubio had been doing his job, instead of promoting anti-Russian propaganda, he could have – indeed, should have – held Victoria Nuland’s feet to the fire regarding what was really going on at the biological labs in Ukraine. It is possible that there might be a more innocuous explanation. But until it is provided, it appears that Russia did in Ukraine what the US was unable to in Iraq – launched an attack on a nation which was in possession of prohibited biological weapons.

These opinions, statements and thoughts are the sole opinion of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of RT.



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