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US urged to open up on Ukraine labs

By CHEN YINGQUN in Beijing and REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-18 09:25

Local residents are seen outside a damaged building in Volnovakha of Donetsk, March 15, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Putin adds to voices of concern over the facilities' biological-military roles

The United States has been urged to act responsibly and clarify matters regarding its global biological-military activities, including at its biological laboratories in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that components of biological weapons have been created in Ukraine.

"A network of dozens of laboratories was operated in Ukraine, where military-biological programs were conducted under the guidance and financial support of the Pentagon, including experiments with samples of coronavirus, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever, and other deadly diseases," Putin said.

Putin stressed that strenuous efforts have been made to cover up "the traces of these secret programs".

"But we have every reason to believe that components of biological weapons were in fact created in the immediate vicinity of Russia on the territory of Ukraine," the Russian head of state said.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed that the US had poured money into biological laboratories in Ukraine, where experiments with bat coronavirus samples have been carried out.

The ministry said it had obtained documents detailing US biological-military activities in Ukraine, including information relating to the transfer abroad of the Ukrainian labs' biomaterial.

According to earlier Russian media reports, the official documents indicate that US military doctors are studying the use of pathogens associated with especially dangerous diseases in different regions of Ukraine. Outbreaks of these infectious diseases serve as confirmation of the US activities.

In 2009, 450 Ukrainians became victims of hemorrhagic pneumonia in Ternopil. In 2011, 33 Ukrainians suffered from cholera and in 2014 that number reached 800.

On March 8, while testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Ukraine, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland admitted "Ukraine has biological research facilities".

However, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US permanent representative to the United Nations, later said at a UN Security Council meeting: "There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories supported by the United States."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday stressed the importance of establishing a verification mechanism relating to the US-funded biological laboratories in Ukraine given the concerns they caused. The issues related to these labs must be addressed within the framework of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, or BWC.

In addition to the more than 30 bio-labs in Ukraine, the US has created "hundreds of such laboratories" in other countries, Lavrov said.

International appeal

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the international community has long had serious concerns over the US' biological-military activities.

According to what has been submitted by the US, the country has 336 bio-labs in 30 countries. This is not a problem confined to US labs in Ukraine, nor is it a new issue arising from the current situation, he said.

The US has an obligation to abide by the BWC and clarify what it is doing in order to address the concerns of the international community. It cannot muddle through by deflecting attention, he said.

Abdullah Agar, a security expert and academic at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, said that all humanity needs transparency on the bio-labs in Ukraine, not just the people who may face the risks on the battlefield.

Korkut Ulucan, a specialist in medical biology and genetics, said the laboratories must be made accessible to international scientific committees and their activities audited by independent organizations. "To prevent a leak, these laboratories should be gradually evacuated with utmost care, under high-level security conditions and the supervision of a committee of scientists, and they must be inactivated," Ulucan said.

Ulucan warned that a possible lab leakage and the "uncontrolled emergence of secret activities "could lead to massive destruction.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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