Biological labs found in Ukraine
The New York Times dismisses the story on the US-financed program
On March 6, 2022, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Major General Ígor Konashénkov, made public the existence of laboratories in Ukraine that, he said, were developing components of biological arms. The official stated that the program was financed by the United States and that the government of Ukraine attempted to destroy evidence of the program. The story continued to unfold from March 6 to March 12. It was covered by the Venezuelan state news outlet Telesur, by the Spanish-language Russia Today, and by the Cuban daily newspaper Granma, which is managed by the Communist Party of Cuba. The following is an account taken from the three sources.
In the March 6 announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defense, Konashénkov stated that the Russian military operation in Ukraine had found documents and tangible evidence that the labs were developing biological arms with financing from the U.S. Department of Defense. The spokesperson denounced the fact as a violation by the United Sates and Ukraine of the UN Convention on the prohibition of biological and toxic arms. The labs, Konashénkov declared, were found to be working with pathogens of high risk, like anthrax, plague, cholera, among others. He further stated that the Ukrainian government emitted an order on February 24 to destroy the evidence, concerning which the Russian government released several documents. Konashénkov noted that experts of the Forces of Biological, Chemical, and Radiological Defense were continuing with analysis of the documents.
Vitoria Nuland, U.S. Undersecretary of State, confirmed the existence of biological laboratories in Ukraine. She asserted in a Senate hearing that there are biological research laboratories in Ukraine, and Washington wants to prevent the Russian forces from taking possession of these research materials. She denied that Ukraine has developed biological arms, a denial that was reported by Russia Today and Granma.
On March 8, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Relations communicated that it had obtained documents proceeding from Ukrainian biological laboratories that “certify the urgent destruction of pathogens especially dangerous for the plague, anthrax, cholera, and other deadly infirmities. Spokesperson María Zajárova said that such actions were carried out in order to avoid the discovery of violations by Ukraine and the United States of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Storage of Biological and Toxic Arms.
Meanwhile, the Chief of the Biological, Chemical, and Radiation Defense Force of the Armed Forces of Russia, Ígor Kirílov, declared that a network of more than thirty biological labs were operating in Ukraine, which were at the service of the Agency for the Reduction of Threats, a dependency of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Venezuelan state Network Telesur, reporting in detail on the Russian accusations, also reported on the U.S. denial. It noted that Oliva Dalton, spokesperson of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, declared that the Russian claim is exactly the kind of false flag against which we have warned, which Russia could use to justify an attack with biological or chemical arms.
On March 8, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Relations of China, Lijian Zhao, called upon the United States to disclose details concerning the biological laboratories, including the types of viruses stored and investigations undertaken. Zhao declared, “The United States has 336 laboratories in thirty countries under its control, including twenty-six in Ukraine alone. It ought to give a complete accounting of its military activities in the country and submit to multilateral verification.”
On March 9, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, María Zajárova, demanded that the government of the United States inform the international community concerning the programs that it was carrying out in biological laboratories installed in Ukraine and financed by the U.S. Department of State. She maintained that the installations were supervised by U.S. experts and were developing biological materials for military purposes. She discarded any peaceful purpose to the biological programs developed in Ukraine, because, she declared, they were investigating the use of pathogen agents in birds, bats, and reptiles in order to later study the possibility of transmitting the African swine flu or anthrax through these species.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on March 9 accused Russia of trying to organize a “false flag operation” in making declarations that the United States was creating biological arms in Ukraine.
Zajárova further sustained that the Kremlin had received documentation from employees of these laboratories of “the emergency destruction on February 24 of pathogens especially dangerous for the plague, anthrax, cholera, and other deadly infirmities.” She expressed the desire of Russia to verify that these materials were indeed destroyed, due to concern that they would fall into the hands of extremists or nationalists.
In a televised press conference on March 10, Konashénkov stated that “the purpose of this and other biological investigations financed by the Pentagon in Ukraine was to establish a mechanism for the covert propagation of deadly pathogens.” He maintained that his office had obtained documents that detailed the military and biological activities of the United States in Ukraine. He noted that Washington had spent more than 200 million dollars on biological laboratories in Ukraine, where they were developing experiments with bat coronavirus, and they were planning to carry out investigation concerning the pathogens of birds, bats, and reptiles as well as additional possibilities for the study of African swine fever and anthrax. He noted that Moscow possesses detailed information concerning the implementation by the Pentagon of a project in Ukrainian territory for the study of the transfer of pathogens through wild birds that migrate between Ukraine and Russia and other neighboring countries. He added that “the United States carried out this work in complete secret,” and that the United States also has been creating its military biological laboratories in other states of the former Soviet Union, installing them along the length of the Russian border.
On March 11, the Security Council of the United Nations met in extraordinary session at the request of Russia. It analyzed the denunciation by Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya of the creation of biological arms in laboratories in Ukraine, with the advice and financing of the United States. Nebenzya pointed out the real biological danger to Europe of the uncontrolled propagation of biological agents from Ukraine, which, as is known from COVID, would be impossible to stop. In response, the United States confined itself to accusing Russia of disseminating false information.
Izumi Nakamitsu, high representative for UN Disarmament Affairs, reported to the Council that the Convention of Biological Arms prohibits the production, acquisition, transfer, accumulation and use of biological arms. It has been in vigor since 1975, and both Russia and Ukraine are part of the convention. He further stated that, inasmuch as the Convention does not have a method of method of international verification, any state can petition the Security Council, which can initiate an investigation of denunciation. This resource, he noted, has never been utilized in the history of the Convention.
On March 11, Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, declared that the United States ought to demonstrate its innocence with respect to biological laboratories on Ukrainian territory by responding “directly and honestly” to only three questions. (1) What was the U.S. embassy in Kiev trying to hide when it hurriedly eliminated documents from its website? (2) Why has the United States been the only country impeding for twenty years the conclusion of a protocol of verification of the Convention of Biological Arms? (Said Convention prohibits biological arms but it has not established a protocol for verification of compliance). (3) What prevents the United States from opening its biological laboratories to an independent international inspection?
A video report was posted by Telesur on its website on March 11. The report refers to a communique issued by the U.S. Department of State in response to the Russian allegations on biological and chemical arms in Ukraine. The communique states that the Department of Defense Program for the Reduction of Threats in Ukraine gathers and secures pathogens and toxins of interest for security. In this same line, the Telesur report notes that the Director of the CIA, William J. Burns, stated in a congressional hearing that more than a dozen laboratories in Ukraine are dedicated to investigation of defense measures in biological warfare. The labs are not, he declared, fabricating biological arms. Similarly, the Director of National Security of the United States, Paul M. Nakasone, confirmed that the government of Ukraine operates a dozen biological labs that are dedicated to investigations of biological security; the government of Ukraine does not manufacture arms, he stated. The Telesur report mentions, on the other hand, a different line taken by Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, who noted that medical facilities often have pathogens of this kind stored; the danger is that such pathogens, not created as an arm, could be weaponized, if they fell into the wrong hands.
Taking into account these claims by high officials of U.S. national security, the Telesur commentator expressed five questions. (1) If the labs are for medical purposes, why are they being developed under the auspices of the Department of Defense? (2) Why are the labs being developed in Ukraine at this particular time? (3) Taking into account the fact that much larger quantities are needed for arms than for research, what are the quantities of pathogens that are being stored? (4) Recognizing that different pathogens have different known purposes, what particular pathogens are being developed and stored? (5) Why are the Ukrainian government and nationalist groups destroying labs and destroying evidence?
In The New York Times’ Morning news, Evening Briefing, and Opinion Today, sent daily to its subscribers, stories during the period in question included only one article on the Russian accusation of U.S.-financed biological weapons labs in Ukraine. The article, “U.S. Fights Bioweapons Disinformation Pushed by Russia and China,” was written by Edward Wong and published on March 10. The article frames the issue as “one of Russia’s most incendiary disinformation campaigns” and as a conspiracy theory disseminated by Chinese diplomats and state media organizations. The article does not present the declarations of the foreign ministries of Russia and China as protests that require a response. It treats the declarations of the foreign ministries as smear campaigns, when in fact they were in essence requests or demands for explanation by the U.S. government. The article repeats the denials and accusations of disinformation by the State Department and the White House, thus permitting the U.S. government to avoid any explanation of its activities with respect to biological laboratories in Ukraine. The article does not expect the government of the United States to respond to the questions put forth by the Foreign Ministry of China. Nor does Mr. Wong take up the questions put forth by his colleagues in the Venezuelan media, expecting his own government to answer them. And he makes no effort to address these questions himself. Moreover, he does not mention a critical part of the story, namely, that the UN Security Council convened in extraordinary session to address the Russian accusation. In framing the issue as propaganda by enemy Cold War powers, Wong lets his government off the hook.
In a previous commentary, I noted that intellectuals and activists of the global Left have maintained that the mainstream news outlets have abandoned reporting with respect to Ukraine and have become arms of US/NATO propaganda. The dismissal of the protests of the governments of Russia and China as not warranting international attention or investigation is an example.
As citizens of one of the nations of a modern world-system in sustained civilizational crisis, we have the obligation to seek to understand what is true. From a perspective of commitment to truth, it is reasonable for us to have suspicion about the U.S. claim that the biological laboratories in Ukraine are being developed for purposes of defense. There are various reasons for skepticism: the location of the labs in Ukraine, not far from the Russian border; the evidence of efforts to coverup what the labs have been doing; and U.S. non-cooperation with international efforts to develop an enforcement protocol with respect to the prohibition of biological arms, as though the United States had no interest or intention in complying with the prohibition. In addition, no reasonable person can leave aside the numerous distortions of reality for decades by the government of the United States, in order to legitimate its strategies for attaining its economic and political interests. Even though we live in a world in which false stories are continually disseminated, a reasoned commitment to truth does not permit us to accept that U.S. dismissal of the story as false claims and disinformation campaigns. We are compelled to demand of the government of the United States that it respond to the questions and demands of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries and the journalists of Telesur.
Of course, it may be that the U.S. government cannot respond, because it has been caught in a lie. If this be true, then this episode constitutes merely one reason more to take the necessary course of action that has become increasingly clear for the past forty years, namely, the taking of power by the people. That is, the mobilization and organization of the people, on the basis of historically accurate and scientifically based explanations of their interests in the current situation. It is a question of moving beyond the submitting of demands to a political establishment constrained by the interests of the corporate elite and trapped in the structures of neoliberal capitalism; to the taking of power from their hands, and placing it in the hands of the delegates and deputies of the people, so that political power can be used in defense of humanity.
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