Russia asks the UN to investigate allegations about Ukrainian biological laboratories

Russia asks the UN Security Council to create a commission to investigate its allegations that the United States and Ukraine violate the convention banning the use of biological weapons due to activities carried out in biological laboratories in Ukraine.

A draft resolution circulated to council members and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday says that under Article VI of the convention, Russia has filed a formal complaint alleging banned biological activities are taking place in Ukraine.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, its ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia claimed that secret American laboratories in Ukraine were engaged in biological warfare – a charge denied by the United States. and Ukraine.

The draft resolution would authorize the Security Council to set up a commission of its 15 members to investigate Russian claims and report to the council by November 30 and to the parties to the convention at a conference of exam in Geneva from November 28 to December 16.

Nebenzia said in a letter that he was circulating the resolution, along with some 300 pages of documents, ahead of a Security Council meeting Moscow called on Thursday on biological activities in Ukraine. He said Russia also plans to hold Council expert consultations on the draft resolution.

In March, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of using a Security Council meeting to “lie and spread disinformation” about biological weapons in a possible operation under false Moscow banner for the use of chemical or biological agents in Ukraine.

The US mission to the United Nations did not immediately comment on the Russian draft resolution.

An AP investigation in March found that Russia’s baseless claims about secret US biowarfare labs in Ukraine were taking root online, including in the US, bringing together Covid-19 conspiracy theorists, QAnon adherents and some supporters of former President Donald Trump — despite rebuttals from independent scientists, Ukrainian leaders, and White House and Pentagon officials.

Ukraine has a network of biological laboratories that have received funding and research support from the United States, but they are owned and operated by Ukraine and are part of an initiative called the Waste Reduction Program. biological threats which aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly epidemics, whether natural or man-made.

American efforts date back to the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction program.

“The labs are not secret,” Filippa Lentzos, senior lecturer in science and international security at King’s College London, said in March. “They are not used in connection with biological weapons. This is all misinformation.

Mr. Nebenzia claimed in the letter to council members released on Tuesday that during what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, it obtained “a variety of documents and evidence that shed light on the true nature military biological activities of the United States and Ukraine”. on Ukrainian territory.

“Data analysis proves non-compliance by the US and Ukrainian sides with the provisions” of the Biological Weapons Convention, he said.

Nebenzia said Russia had tried “to get comprehensive answers” to questions about specific U.S. and Ukrainian activities and implementation of the convention, but “Washington and Kyiv don’t have not provided the necessary explanations, nor taken immediate measures to remedy the situation”.

He said a formal meeting of the 197 states parties to the convention had been convened by Russia in late August and early September on the activities of biological laboratories in Ukraine, but a final report said that “it was not possible to reach consensus on the issues we have raised”. ”.

The issues “remain open and require resolution,” Nebenzia said, which is why Russia is invoking Article VI of the convention. It gives states parties the right to ask the Security Council to investigate alleged violations.

The draft resolution also notes that Article VI requires states parties “to cooperate in the conduct of any investigation that the Security Council may initiate.”