As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine slogs on, the Kremlin has taken its allegations of US bioweapons research to the UN Security Council, saying that its armed forces have collected information during the invasion that shows that the United States was conducting experiments with dangerous pathogens like avian flu and putting Europe and other countries at risk. From the White House to the Pentagon, US authorities have forcefully denied the claims.
“Last month, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken laid out with tragic accuracy what Russia was about to do,” the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council Friday. “He specifically warned that Russia would manufacture a pretext for attack and even cautioned that Russia would fabricate allegations about chemical or biological weapons to justify its own violent attacks against the Ukrainian people. Today the world is watching Russia do exactly what we warned it would.”
The United States, Thomas-Greenfield said, is “deeply concerned that Russia’s calling for this meeting is a potential false flag effort in action.” She said the United States was worried that the Russian allegations were a prelude to the Russian military using banned biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine.
The program at the heart of the Russian allegations is the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which has a decades’-long history of working to secure weapons of mass destruction in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Now the program supports public and animal health laboratories in Ukraine and elsewhere, US officials say.
Outside experts, the US government, and media fact-checks have repeatedly challenged the claims made against the labs in Ukraine and in other former Soviet republics. While Russia’s allegations had been mostly pinging around online venues—including YouTube, fringe podcasts, and media sites linked to the Russian government—Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, gave the claims a significant boost by formally raising them at the Security Council meeting, accusing the United States of covering up evidence of a network of labs conducting dangerous biological experiments.
“Currently, according to our Ministry of Defense, the Kyiv regime, according to the request of their Western mentors are trying to clean it all up to make sure that the Russian side does not find direct evidence that the United States in Ukraine are violating Article One of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention,” he said.
Nebenzia’s claims did not appear to resonate with many of the representatives at Friday’s hearing. “Russia has today brought into the Security Council a series of wild completely baseless and irresponsible conspiracy theories,” the United Kingdom’s UN ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward, said. “Let me put it diplomatically: They are utter nonsense.”
Russia’s chief ally, China, however, did not dismiss the Russian claims. “The concerns raised by Russia should be properly addressed,” Zhang Jun, China’s UN ambassador, said, raising questions about the US military’s biological activities.
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