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US govt and Hunter Biden should clarify involvement in Ukrainian biological labs

By Mark Pinkstone | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-04-03 22:44

The White House is seen the morning after US President Joe Biden returned from a trip to Brussels and Poland to meet with NATO leaders in Washington, March 27, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

It is interesting to watch the White House going hectic for days trying to undo what its master said that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power".  It so happened that not long ago, Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, was revealed to be involved in Ukrainian biological laboratories.

One day before President Biden expressed what he later called "my outrage" in letting personal emotions overtake his presidency in Warsaw, London's Daily Mail reported on March 25 that "Hunter Biden DID help secure millions in funding for a US contractor in Ukraine specializing in deadly pathogen research". It was later confirmed by the New York Post with Hunter's e-mails obtained from a computer he had "forgotten" about having left it at a repair shop in Delaware.

By way of background, it has been fairly well documented that the United States has some 400 bacteriological laboratories around the world, including about two dozens in Ukraine. Although not all were "owned" by the Americans they were partially financed by the US Department of Defence (DoD).  

The US DoD said that its biological threat reduction program was working with partner countries to combat the threat of outbreaks (intentional, accidental, or natural) of the most dangerous infectious diseases in the world, including Ukraine. The functioning of the so-called "American" biolaboratories in Ukraine started during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko in 2005. In 2013 Ukraine abandoned its cooperation with the US but one year later it was restarted during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko.

The involvement of the Biden family in the Ukrainian biolabs surfaced on March 24 during the Russian military operation in Ukraine. Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin revealed on State media that an investment fund run by Hunter Biden financed research and the implementation of the US military biological program.

American intelligence officials had earlier dismissed Russia's claims of US military bio-program, explaining that Ukraine's network of biological labs was "researching pathogens" for which they had publicly received funding from Washington. However, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed on March 9 that reports of biolabs in Ukraine were fake news propagated by Russia.

It is no surprise that they did not mention Hunter Biden's involvement in raising funds for the biolabs.

In 2009 Hunter Biden started a company – Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners – with Christopher Heinz, stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry. The company invested $500,000 in Metabiota, a pathogen-research company headquartered in San Francisco.

Then in a separate story on March 17 into a federal tax investigation into Hunter's business dealings, the New York Times confirmed that the e-mails on Hunter's computer were authentic.

The e-mails revealed Hunter Biden introduced Metabiota to officials at Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where he was a highly paid board member, for a "science project" involving biolabs in Ukraine.

"I don't think I made a mistake in taking a spot on that board. I think I made a mistake in terms of underestimating the way it would be used against me," he said of the US$50,000-a-month gig that raised eyebrows and ignited a political firestorm because his father was serving as vice president in the Obama administration at the time.

Metabiota has worked in Ukraine for Black & Veatch (B&V), an American defense contractor with ties to military intelligence agencies, which built secure labs in Ukraine, according to the Daily Mail.

According to the e-mails, Metabiota's then vice-president Mary Guttieri wrote to Hunter Biden about geopolitical issues involving the company's research in the former Soviet republic, two months after Russia annexed the Crimea region.

"As promised, I've prepared the attached memo, which provides an overview of Metabiota, our engagement in Ukraine, and how we can potentially leverage our team, networks, and concepts to assert Ukraine's cultural and economic independence from Russia and continued integration into Western society," her memo read.

B&V had been commissioned in 2010 by the US DoD's Threat Reduction Agency to build a lab in Odessa, Ukraine, to "enhance the government's existing surveillance systems to detect, report and respond to bioterrorism attacks, epidemics and potential pandemics", the company's website said.

The US Embassy in Ukraine posted on its website that its International Counterproliferation Program provides hands-on training for the National Police, the Security Service of Ukraine, and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine.  

"Training efforts focus primarily on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and dual-use item identification and interdiction.  Courses include subject matter experts covering bio-terror investigations, dual-use item investigations, general WMD awareness, and WMD investigations.  Workshops are tailored to focus on chemical, biological, or other WMD-related investigations.  Trainings are conducted with an interagency focus, as opening lines of communication and guiding interagency networking and relationship-building is one of the cornerstones of building a successful and sustainable WMD capability in Ukraine," said the Embassy website.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland admitted during testimony before a US Senate committee on March 8 to the existence of biological research labs in Ukraine. "The US is working with Ukraine to prevent biological research facilities from falling into the hands of Russians," she said.

A 2012 report by the US National Academy of Sciences said that some Ukrainian labs have been upgraded to the level needed to handle some of the more dangerous pathogens such as anthrax and cholera. And Russia claimed that evidence they seized in Ukraine showed some pathogens were transported to the US.

Later the World Health Organization advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens stored in the country's labs to prevent "any potential spills".

This time, Psaki and other White House staff may find it hard to walk back. But Hunter Biden and those responsible at the US DoD owed the world a clarified account for the biolab pathogen programs they funded.

Hopefully the Russian-Ukraine conflict will soon be over, but the world will still be inquiring about the pathogen research programs aided by young Biden and Pentagon.

The author is a former Chief Information Officer of the Hong Kong Government, a PR & Media Consultant and veteran journalist. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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