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Excerpt from Briefing by Maria Zakharova, on Ukraine and Biological laboratories

Source: Russian MFA by Maria Zakharova (Read full briefing)

Ukraine update

The special military operation by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continues in Ukraine. According to the leadership of the Russian Federation, it is progressing in strict accordance with the plan and its details are covered in depth during daily Russian Defence Ministry briefings.

In turn, we would like to reiterate that this operation was undertaken reluctantly and comes in the wake of eight years of aggression perpetrated by the Kiev regime against Donbass, and Kiev’s unwillingness to respect human rights and stop discrimination against Russian-speaking citizens of the country. All of that unfolded amid a catastrophic decline in global security caused by the actions of NATO, primarily, the United States.

The lion’s share of responsibility for the crisis lies with the NATO member countries, which encouraged and supported Kiev’s Russophobic policy and not only recognised, but orchestrated the anti-constitutional coup in 2014. The official statements by Ukrainian politicians about seeking nuclear weapons were the last straw.

Our long-standing fears, which we have expressed multiple times over many years, regarding the development by the United States in Ukraine of the corresponding military-grade biological materials under the guidance of the relevant US special services, were confirmed recently. They were confirmed not only on the basis of the materials and data obtained directly in Ukraine, and not only from the statements by the corresponding Ukrainian agencies. This was also stated today in Washington by US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland when she took questions from US legislators.

The goal of the special military operation is to protect the residents of the DPR and LPR, to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, to eliminate the military threat to Russia emanating from Ukraine due to it being settled by NATO countries which flood Ukraine with weapons. It is not designed to occupy Ukraine, destroy its statehood, or topple its government. It is not directed against civilians. We have to go over the same things time and again in order to counter the vast amount of disinformation and classic fakes developed by Western intelligence services in the corresponding Western media.

The Ukrainian side’s methods of conducting operations are of major concern. We are well aware that extremists, who until recently were legally registered as nationalist paramilitary battalions, are now an integral part of the Ukrainian armed forces. The Russian side recorded the use of phosphorus munitions, which are banned by the third protocol of the UN Inhumane Weapons Convention, by the armed forces of Ukraine. The nationalist battalions, mercenaries from the Middle East and some countries of Western Europe who are fighting alongside them, are using civilians as human shields and taking up fighting positions in residential buildings and at civilian sites. This tactic was used by ISIS terrorists. We observe obstacles to the evacuation of local residents and foreign citizens from hazardous areas. Information about humanitarian corridors is deliberately withheld. People wishing to leave for Russia are forced to evacuate in the western direction. There were instances where nationalists shot civilians who wanted to leave the areas of hostility.

A great danger is posed by criminals who were released from prisons deliberately by people who were fully aware of the consequences. Not only that, they were given firearms as well. Now, in addition to neo-Nazis and mercenaries, Ukraine, as was the case during the civil war, is now home to gangs of looters, robbers and rapists.

Concurrently with the special military operation, we are holding talks with the Ukrainian side in order to end as soon as possible the unnecessary and senseless bloodshed and resistance by the armed forces of Ukraine. The third round ended in Belarus on March 7. The discussion of political, military and humanitarian issues continued. Some progress has been made, in particular on humanitarian corridors for the civilians to leave war zones. We were approached with requests for evacuation to Russia from about 2 million people with about 140,000 people already in Russia. Unfortunately, agreements are often not followed in real life. I would like to draw your attention to the statistics that the Emergencies Ministry is providing regularly and clearly. It has all the statistics on the number of people who crossed into the territory of the Russian Federation, the districts and regions of our country where they reside, their numbers and social status.

Unfortunately, the agreements are often not complied with in real life. We call on the Ukrainian side to do everything possible to ensure the safe passage of civilians. We hope that the next rounds of talks will help produce a more substantial step forward.

As the Russian leadership has stated, the goals of returning Ukraine to the origins of its sovereignty, which are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed its neutral status and cooperation with Russia, will be achieved. It is best to do so by way of peaceful negotiations. We count on the Ukrainian authorities adhering to the same positions.

Biological laboratories in Ukraine

We commented on this yesterday. I will repeat the main points of the Foreign Ministry statements.

We confirm the facts revealed during the special military operation in Ukraine, which prove that the Kiev regime has been destroying the evidence of military biological programmes Kiev was implementing with US funding.

We are not talking here about peaceful uses or scientific research for the benefit of the world, or development. The fact is that they were funded by the US Department of Defence.

We presume that in the near future, the US Department of Defence and the US Presidential Administration will be obliged to explain the programmes in Ukraine to the international community and do it officially, not through talking heads. We believe Washington has no chance to remain silent this time, not with the uncovered materials and the recent confirmations by the Ukrainian side and the United States – let me remind you that the statement was made by US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

We remember how they have been searching for chemical, biological or bacteriological weapons across the globe for years, with exceptional bloody efficacy, invading countries and killing people. Well, you have been searching in all the wrong places. We have found them for you. Your projects, your biological samples, including those for military purposes in the first place, are in Ukraine. What were you doing there? It’s a different continent. No common borders. No US bases. What were your specialists doing then under the guise of scientific developments, giving regular instructions to the Ukrainian side on how to do the research and how to use what they were making? Today, when there is nothing whatsoever to refute this evidence, we demand details. The world has the right to know what they were going to make there, what their purpose was, and their time frame, and the size of this “investment” in the bio lab activity in Ukraine. Data, materials, documents, please, everything on the table. The game is over.

We have obtained documents from employees of Ukrainian bio labs on the urgent destruction of their samples of plague, anthrax, cholera and other deadly pathogens after February 24. This was all documented. Moreover, we have been warning you about this for many years, here in this room during briefings, and in statements made by the Foreign Ministry and other Russian government agencies. The Russian leaders have regularly spoken about this, asking questions, and sending requests to the American side to explain its activities. Now we are not asking; we are demanding. The world is waiting.

This is regarding the Ukrainian Health Ministry’s instructions on the prompt elimination of the stored reserves of dangerous pathogens, which was sent to all biolaboratories. These materials are available on the Defence Ministry website.

Specialists in the radiation, chemical and biological warfare units are currently analysing these documents. However, it is already possible to conclude that components of biological weapons were developed in Ukrainian biolaboratories in the direct vicinity of our territory. The urgent destruction of the most dangerous pathogens on February 24 of this year was necessary to prevent the disclosure of facts that point to the violation by Ukraine and the United States of Article I of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (CBTW). How were these pathogens destroyed? Have all of them been destroyed? These were instructions for the relevant ministries. Who was in charge of the Health Ministry of Ukraine for a long time? Do you remember? What country did this wonderful doctor come from to head the Health Ministry of Ukraine? I remember well – from America. Here’s an answer to the question of who dealt with healthcare in Ukraine, how and for what purposes. The main question remains open: have these pathogens been eliminated or not? How is it possible to check them now? Have extremists or nationalists taken them? Who can guarantee this?

This information justifies Russia’s repeated grievances as regards compliance with the CBTW in the context of military biological activity on the part of the US and its allies in the post-Soviet space. To remove them, it is possible to use the mechanisms of the CBTW’s Article V and Article VI, according to which the states parties undertake to consult one another and to cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention and to cooperate in carrying out any investigation into potential violations of the Convention.

To prevent military biological activities that contradict CBTW guidelines, it is necessary to take resolute measures to strengthen its regime. We are calling to resume the work on the legally binding Protocol to the Convention with an effective verification mechanism, which the US has blocked since 2001, as we have said many times. In this context, we suggest establishing an open working group in the CBTW, which meets the interests of the overwhelming majority of member states.

At this point, people are discussing everything: oil, gas, companies, their future, business, aircraft, transport, logistics, visas and borders. It is possible to regulate all these things in one way or another. Having been through the fight against the coronavirus in 2020, we all understand that if biological weapons get out, there will be no way to contain them. Maybe, the entire world, all countries on all continents should come to their senses and ask themselves, instead of watching CNN nonsense or reading fake news in the Washington Post: are they ready for yet another “adventure” with an unidentified virus or the global spread of biomaterials, if they have ended up or will end up in the hands of extremists or militants? Are they ready for this? Or are they only ready to express solidarity under strong pressure from those who have built biolabs in many countries and who are guiding their activities directly from the US Department of Defence? These activities are classified. They are not transparent and not subject to any monitoring.

To strengthen the institutional foundations of the CBTW, we suggest a number of initiatives that enjoy broad international support and provide for the establishment, within the framework of this document, of mobile medico-biological units (to render aid to the victims of biological weapons and to counter epidemics of varying origins), as well as establishing a research consultative committee for analysing scientific and technical achievements and for providing countries with the relevant recommendations.

In addition, we propose that the members of the Convention include information on military biological activity abroad in their annual reports as a confidence-building measure.

Only comprehensive measures will make it possible to put under meticulous international control the unlimited military biological activities of the US and its allies in the post-Soviet space and in the rest of the world. This will ensure verifiable implementation of the commitments of the CBTW members.

We will send you the links to all our statements.

A little less than a year ago, during a briefing on May 13, 2021, we replied to a question about the drafting of a legally binding protocol with an effective verification mechanism in the CBTW that we just discussed. We told the world, once again, that the United States had unilaterally derailed the adoption of this draft document. What were they doing during all these years? We also noted (in the spring of 2021) that Washington was persistently blocking any resumption of talks on a protocol even though the special group’s mandate remained valid.

We hoped that common sense would prevail in Washington and urged the United States, as the CBTW depository, to make a constructive contribution to strengthening the convention’s system rather than blocking the work on this document.

Now it is becoming clear that the United States was deliberately blocking any effort in this area in order to make it impossible to verify research, developments and other activities linked with biological weapons in these laboratories. 

April 9, 2021. Briefing on US military biological activities

On August 28, 2020, sanctions were adopted as regards three Russian research institutes.

We emphasised that the United States remained the only party to the Chemical Weapons Convention that had retained chemical weapons. Moreover, the US patented innovations linked with the use of full-scale combat chemical agents, including nerve gases.

We noted the US’s comprehensive approach: it was blocking the efforts of other states to control its activities while at the same time it was building up unlimited research on the production and proliferation of chemical and biological agents.

We noted high-profile international scandals around US laboratories. Thus, it transpired during the investigation of terrorist attacks linked with the shipments of anthrax spores in 2001 that the researcher who had sent these poisonous envelopes worked in a biolaboratory in Fort Detrick, the Pentagon’s flagship for bio protection.

In 2020, we repeatedly expressed concern about the US military’s biological activities in the post-Soviet space.

A number of questions revolved around the activities of the Pentagon-built Richard Lugar Public Health Research Centre in Georgia where the US Army Medical Research Unit-Georgia (USAMRU-G) operated. Isn’t this enough? Should we cite more examples? We published some; here they are.

May 27, 2020: a detailed commentary on the Lugar Centre.

April 17, 2020: a briefing where we once again noted the strengthening of the US biological presence abroad. Laboratories were officially included in the US military system for global control over the spread of infectious diseases, in addition to similar institutions in a number of other countries.

No one listened, no one wanted to know. We were closely surrounded by NATO’s military-technical component. They built laboratories to carry out biological weapons research in the post-Soviet space contrary to all commitments and standards assumed by the US.

January 17, 2020: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a news conference on Russian diplomatic activities in 2019. This issue was raised again.

December 17, 2018: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station. This issue was raised in the context of Ukraine.

Interview with State Secretary: Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin’s interview with the RIA Novosti news agency, published on December 19, 2018. The same issue was discussed again.

We continuously raised this issue because we understood what was going on. If this threat finds its way to the outside world it cannot be promptly controlled. Now, perhaps, everyone understands this.