ER Editor: We’re doing a twofer. First Glenn Greenwald‘s article this week on arch neocon Victoria Nuland’s truthful admission that Ukraine has biolabs. Then the transcript of what the Russia Defense Ministry said recently at the UN Security Council about this matter, taking into account Nuland’s admission.
A reply from the US side is now being awaited.
Victoria Nuland: Ukraine Has “Biological Research Facilities,” Worried Russia May Seize Them
The neocon’s confession sheds critical light on the U.S. role in Ukraine, and raises vital questions about these labs that deserve answers.
Self-anointed “fact-checkers” in the U.S. corporate press have spent two weeks mocking as disinformation and a false conspiracy theory the claim that Ukraine has biological weapons labs, either alone or with U.S. support.
They never presented any evidence for their ruling — how could they possibly know? and how could they prove the negative? — but nonetheless they invoked their characteristically authoritative, above-it-all tone of self-assurance and self-arrogated right to decree the truth, definitively labelling such claims false.
Claims that Ukraine currently maintains dangerous biological weapons labs came from Russia as well as China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry this month claimed: “The US has 336 labs in 30 countries under its control, including 26 in Ukraine alone.” The Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that “Russia obtained documents proving that Ukrainian biological laboratories located near Russian borders worked on development of components of biological weapons.” Such assertions deserve the same level of skepticism as U.S. denials: namely, none of it should be believed to be true or false absent evidence. Yet U.S. fact-checkers dutifully and reflexively sided with the U.S. Government to declare such claims “disinformation” and to mock them as QAnon conspiracy theories.
Unfortunately for this propaganda racket masquerading as neutral and high-minded fact-checking, the neocon official long in charge of U.S. policy in Ukraine testified on Monday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and strongly suggested that such claims are, at least in part, true. Yesterday afternoon, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), hoping to debunk growing claims that there are chemical weapons labs in Ukraine, smugly asked Nuland: “Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?”
Rubio undoubtedly expected a flat denial by Nuland, thus providing further “proof” that such speculation is dastardly Fake News emanating from the Kremlin, the CCP and QAnon. Instead, Nuland did something completely uncharacteristic for her, for neocons, and for senior U.S. foreign policy officials: for some reason, she told a version of the truth. Her answer visibly stunned Rubio, who — as soon as he realized the damage she was doing to the U.S. messaging campaign by telling the truth — interrupted her and demanded that she instead affirm that if a biological attack were to occur, everyone should be “100% sure” that it was Russia who did it. Grateful for the life raft, Nuland told Rubio he was right.
But Rubio’s clean-up act came too late. When asked whether Ukraine possesses “chemical or biological weapons,” Nuland did not deny this: at all. She instead — with palpable pen-twirling discomfort and in halting speech, a glaring contrast to her normally cocky style of speaking in obfuscatory State Department officialese — acknowledged: “uh, Ukraine has, uh, biological research facilities.” Any hope to depict such “facilities” as benign or banal was immediately destroyed by the warning she quickly added: “we are now in fact quite concerned that Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to, uh, gain control of [those labs], so we are working with the Ukrainiahhhns [sic] on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach” — [interruption by Sen. Rubio]:
Nuland’s bizarre admission that “Ukraine has biological research facilities” that are dangerous enough to warrant concern that they could fall into Russian hands ironically constituted more decisive evidence of the existence of such programs in Ukraine than what was offered in 2002 and 2003 to corroborate U.S. allegations about Saddam’s chemical and biological programs in Iraq. An actual against-interest confession from a top U.S. official under oath is clearly more significant than Colin Powell’s holding up some test tube with an unknown substance inside while he pointed to grainy satellite images that nobody could decipher.
It should go without saying that the existence of a Ukrainian biological “research” program does not justify an invasion by Russia, let alone an attack as comprehensive and devastating as the one unfolding: no more than the existence of a similar biological program under Saddam would have rendered the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq justifiable. But Nuland’s confession does shed critical light on several important issues and raises vital questions that deserve answers.
Any attempt to claim that Ukraine’s biological facilities are just benign and standard medical labs is negated by Nuland’s explicitly grave concern that “Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of” those facilities and that the U.S. Government therefore is, right this minute, “working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces.” Russia has its own advanced medical labs. After all, it was one of the first countries to develop a COVID vaccine, one which Lancet, on February 1, 2021, pronounced was “ safe and effective” (even though U.S. officials pressured multiple countries, including Brazil, not to accept any Russian vaccine, while U.S. allies such as Australia refused for a full year to recognize the Russian COVID vaccine for purposes of its vaccine mandate). The only reason to be “quite concerned” about these “biological research facilities” falling into Russian hands is if they contain sophisticated materials that Russian scientists have not yet developed on their own and which could be used for nefarious purposes — i.e., either advanced biological weapons or dual-use “research” that has the potential to be weaponized.
What is in those Ukrainian biological labs that make them so worrisome and dangerous? And has Ukraine, not exactly known for being a great power with advanced biological research, had the assistance of any other countries in developing those dangerous substances? Is American assistance confined to what Nuland described at the hearing — “working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces” — or did the U.S. assistance extend to the construction and development of the “biological research facilities” themselves?
For all the dismissive language used over the last two weeks by self-described “fact-checkers,” it is confirmed that the U.S. has worked with Ukraine, as recently as last year, in the “development of a bio-risk management culture; international research partnerships; and partner capacity for enhanced bio-security, bio-safety, and bio-surveillance measures.” The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine publicly boasted of its collaborative work with Ukraine “to consolidate and secure pathogens and toxins of security concern and to continue to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.”
This joint US/Ukraine biological research is, of course, described by the State Department in the most unthreatening way possible. But that again prompts the question of why the U.S. would be so gravely concerned about benign and common research falling into Russian hands. It also seems very odd, to put it mildly, that Nuland chose to acknowledge and describe the “facilities” in response to a clear, simple question from Sen. Rubio about whether Ukraine possesses chemical and biological weapons. If these labs are merely designed to find a cure for cancer or create safety measures against pathogens, why, in Nuland’s mind, would it have anything to do with a biological and chemical weapons program in Ukraine?
The indisputable reality is that — despite long-standing international conventions banning development of biological weapons — all large, powerful countries conduct research that, at the very least, has the capacity to be converted into biological weapons. The work conducted under the guise of “defensive research” can, and sometimes is, easily converted into the banned weapons themselves. Recall that, according to the FBI, the 2001 anthrax attacks that terrorized the nation came from a U.S. Army Research scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, working at the U.S. Army’s infectious disease research lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The claim was that the Army was “merely” conducting defensive research to find vaccines and other protections against weaponized anthrax, but to do so, the Army had to create highly weaponized anthrax strains, which Ivins then unleashed as a weapon.
A 2011 PBS Frontline program on those anthrax attacks explained: “in October 2001, Northern Arizona University microbiologist Dr. Paul Keim identified that the anthrax used in the attack letters was the Ames strain, a development he described as ‘chilling’ because that particular strain was developed in U.S. government laboratories.” Speaking to Frontline in 2011, Dr. Keim explained why it was so alarming to discover that the U.S. Army had been cultivating such highly lethal and dangerous strains in its lab, on U.S. soil:
We were surprised it was the Ames strain. And it was chilling at the same time, because the Ames strain is a laboratory strain that had been developed by the U.S. Army as a vaccine-challenge strain. We knew that it was highly virulent. In fact, that’s why the Army used it, because it represented a more potent challenge to vaccines that were being developed by the U.S. Army. It wasn’t just some random type of anthrax that you find in nature; it was a laboratory strain, and that was very significant to us, because that was the first hint that this might really be a bioterrorism event.
This lesson about the severe dangers of so-called dual-use research into biological weapons was re-learned over the last two years as a result of the COVID pandemic. While the origins of that virus have not yet been proven with dispositive evidence (though remember, fact-checkers declared early on that it was definitively established that it came from species-jumping and that any suggestion of a lab leak was a “conspiracy theory,” only for the Biden White House in mid-2021 to admit they did not know the origins and ordered an investigation to determine whether it came from a lab leak), what is certain is that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was manipulating various coronavirus strains to make them more contagious and lethal. The justification was that doing so is necessary to study how vaccines could be developed, but regardless of intent, cultivating dangerous biological strains has the capacity to kill huge numbers of people. All of this illustrates that research that is classified as “defensive” can easily be converted, deliberately or otherwise, into extremely destructive biological weapons.
At the very least, Nuland’s surprising revelation reveals, yet again, just how heavily involved the U.S. Government is and for years has been in Ukraine, on the part of Russia’s border which U.S. officials and scholars from across the spectrum have spent decades warning is the most sensitive and vulnerable for Moscow. It was Nuland herself, while working for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry’s State Department under President Obama, who was heavily involved in what some call the 2014 revolution and others call the “coup” that resulted in a change of government in Ukraine from a Moscow-friendly regime to one far more favorable to the EU and the West. All of this took place as the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid $50,000 per month not to the son of a Ukrainian official but to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter: a reflection of who wielded real power inside Ukraine.
Nuland not only worked for both the Obama and Biden State Departments to run Ukraine policy (and, in many ways, Ukraine itself), but she also was Vice President Dick Cheney’s deputy national security adviser and then President Bush’s Ambassador to NATO. She comes from one of America’s most prestigious neocon royal families; her husband, Robert Kagan, was a co-founder of the notorious neocon war-mongering group Project for the New American Century, which advocated regime change in Iraq long before 9/11. It was Kagan, along with liberal icon Bill Kristol, who (next to current editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg), was most responsible for the lie that Saddam was working hand-in-hand with Al Qaeda, a lie that played a key role in convincing Americans to believe that Saddam was personally involved in the planning of 9/11.
That a neocon like Nuland is admired and empowered regardless of the outcome of elections illustrates how unified and in lockstep the establishment wings of both parties are when it comes to questions of war, militarism and foreign policy. Indeed, Nuland’s husband, Robert Kagan, was signaling that neocons would likely support Hillary Clinton for president — doing so in 2014, long before anyone imagined Trump as her opponent — based on the recognition that the Democratic Party was now more hospitable to neocon ideology than the GOP, where Ron Paul and then Trump’s neo-isolationism was growing.
You can vote against neocons all you want, but they never go away. The fact that a member of one of the most powerful neocon families in the U.S. has been running Ukraine policy for the U.S. for years — having gone from Dick Cheney to Hillary Clinton and Obama and now to Biden — underscores how little dissent there is in Washington on such questions. It is Nuland’s extensive experience in wielding power in Washington that makes her confession yesterday so startling: it is the sort of thing people like her lie about and conceal, not admit. But now that she did admit it, it is crucial that this revelation not be buried and forgotten.
Sitrep: UNSC on biolabs in the Ukraine + Russia Transcript
A quote from the Sirius Report:
Whatever people’s opinion are about the war, one thing that should alarm everyone is the attempt in the west to effectively wipe out any vestige of Russia, including its language, culture and effectively the people.
This is a very short report. The hatred was so palpable in that meeting room that I felt physically affected.
The summary is:
Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Kenya want investigations into the Biolabs.
The US says they did not hide anything and used their time as 10 minutes of hate. And we know they speak the truth because CNN showed us the videos of the horrible Russians and the horrible things that they do, like bombing hospitals. There is no US biolab connection. There is nothing to see here, they say.
UK representative ditto. Norway ditto. A few others, ditto.
Russia says the Ukraine faked deaths and faked propaganda.
Everyone to Russia:
You are conspiracy theorists and aggressors.
*No one shows any proof*
*Russia shows proof*
I trust Russia has a mass of more proof and these speakers will have to swallow their words of today.
Nobody speaks about the biolabs but use their time for 10 minutes of hate. Of course they were caught in the act, and can only rail and hate.
*End of Security Counsel*
The Russian presentation is at time marker +- 47:30.
Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on biological laboratories in Ukraine
COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how vulnerable humanity is in the face of biological threats. It has exacted a huge toll on us, and it continues to claim people’s lives.
When the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) entered into force in 1975, there was hope that the world would at least be safe from manmade biological threats, because all states-signatories realized the enormous risks of using biological weapons (BW) and abandoned plans to develop it.
Unfortunately, we have grounds to think that those hopes did not come true completely.
We called this meeting because during the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, some shocking facts came to light: the Kiev regime is urgently concealing traces of a military biological program that Kiev implemented with support of the US Department of Defense.
The Defense Ministry of Russia got hold of documents confirming that Ukraine developed a network of at least 30 biological laboratories that host extremely dangerous biological experiments, aimed at enhancing the pathogen properties of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera, and other lethal diseases with the help of synthetic biology. This work is funded and directly supervised by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the United States, i.e. in the interests of Pentagon’s National Center for Medical Intelligence. The key role in these programs was played by a BSL-3 central reference laboratory at the Mechnikov Scientific-Research Anti-Plague Institute in Odessa, Ukraine. Research centers in other cities also played a role – Kiev, Lvov, Kharkov, Dnipro, Kherson, Ternopol, Uzhgorod, Vinnytsia. Research results were sent to US military biological centers, i.e. to U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infections Diseases, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, US Naval Medical Research, and US Army Biological Warfare Labs in Fort Detrick that used to be the key hubs of the American biological weapons program.
All the materials are available at the website of Russian Ministry of Defense and are presented at daily briefings. Let me cite the most telling examples.
Russian military learned the details of UP-4 project, which was implemented at laboratories in Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa. It studied the possibilities of spreading particularly dangerous infections through migratory birds, including highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza (lethal to humans in 50 % of cases) and Newcastle disease. As part of another project, bats were considered as carriers of potential BW agents. Among the priorities identified are the study of bacterial and viral pathogens that can be transmitted from bats to humans: pathogens of plague, leptospirosis, brucellosis, as well as coronaviruses and filoviruses. Project documents clearly indicate that the United States actively financed bioprojects in Ukraine.
Besides, there were experiments to study the spreading of dangerous infectious diseases by ectoparasites – fleas and lice. It is clear even to non-experts that such experiments are most reckless, as they give no opportunity to control how the situation is going to evolve. Similar research (using fleas and lice as BW agents) was carried out in the 1940s on the development of biological weapons components by the infamous Japanese unit 731, whose members later fled to the US to escape prosecution for war crimes.
Ukraine has a unique geographical location, where transcontinental migration routes of potential carriers of dangerous diseases intersect. Many of those routes pass through the territories of Russia and Eastern Europe. The research that I mentioned was done in the very midst of Eastern Europe and in close vicinity to the Russian borders. According to the data received, the birds that were ringed and released during biological research from the Kherson nature reserve, were caught in Ivanovo and Voronezh regions of Russia.
The analysis of the obtained materials confirms the transfer of more than 140 containers with ectoparasites of bats from a biolab in Kharkov abroad. We do not know anything about the fate of those dangerous biomaterials and the consequences that may occur once they “dissipate” (possibly in Europe) in the absence of any international control. In any case, risks are high that they may be stolen for terrorist purposes or to be sold at the black market.
Several thousands of samples of blood serum of COVID-19 patients (most of them of Slavic ethnicity) were transported from Ukraine to Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the United Stated – allegedly for trials of treatment and prevention of COVID-19.
Everyone knows how sensitive Western states are when it comes to transferring biological samples of their citizens abroad. And there is a good reason for that – theoretically, samples may be used to create bio-agents capable of selectively targeting different ethnic populations.
The activity of biolabs in Ukraine that we track back to 2014, and US-implemented program of so-called reform of Ukrainian healthcare system triggered uncontrolled growing incidence of dangerous and economically relevant infections in Ukraine. There is an increase in the number of cases of rubella, diphtheria, tuberculosis. Occurrence of measles has increased more than 100-fold. The World Health Organization said Ukraine runs high risks of having a polio outbreak. There is evidence that in Kharkov, where one of the labs is located, 20 Ukrainian soldiers died of swine flu in January 2016, 200 more were hospitalized. By March 2016, the total of 364 people had died of swine flu in Ukraine. Besides, outbreaks of African swine fever occur regularly in Ukraine. In 2019, there was an outbreak of a disease that had symptoms similar to plague.
While the US itself shut down military-purpose biological research on its territory due to high risks it posed to American population, the Kiev authorities actually agreed to turn their country into a biological testing site and have their citizens used as potential test subjects. Those experiments bearing potential country-scale risks continued for years. This once again proves the cynicism of Kiev’s Western patrons who keep shouting from every rooftop that they care for the fate of Ukrainians.
As reported by Reuters, the WHO recommended that Ukraine should eliminate its stocks of pathogens to avoid possible leaks that might trigger disease spread among the population. It is not known for sure whether Kiev has complied.
The materials that our Defense Ministry got hold of prove that all serious high-risk research in Ukrainian biolabs was directly supervised by US experts who had diplomatic immunity. Our Defense Ministry reports that at this moment the Kiev regime, as demanded by the Western sponsors, hastily covers up all traces so that the Russian side could not get hold of direct evidence of the US and Ukraine violating Article 1 of the BTWC. They rush to shut down all biological programs. Ukraine’s Health Ministry ordered to eliminate biological agents deposited in biolabs starting from 24 February 2022. We infer from the instructions to lab personnel that the order of elimination of collections suggested that they should be destroyed irrevocably. Having analyzed the destruction certificates, we can say that the Lvov lab alone destroyed 232 containers with pathogens of leptospirosis, 30 – of tularemia, 10 – of brucellosis, 5 – of plague. The total of more than 320 containers was eliminated. Pathogens’ titles and excessive amounts give reason to think that this work was done as part of military biological programs.
Now let me make a separate address to our colleagues from Europe.
All those years, there was a site for dangerous biological tests on the doorstep of the European Union. We call to think of a real biological threat to the population of European states that may be posed by uncontrolled spread of biological agents from Ukraine. As we know from our experience with COVID-19, this cannot be stopped. Should this be the case, it will encompass the entire Europe.
US representatives get rather confused when speaking about the US involvement in biological activity on the territory of Ukraine. During hearings of the US Congress on 8 March, Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland in fact confirmed that there were biolabs in Ukraine where military-purpose biological research had been conducted. When asked by Senator Marco Rubio whether Ukraine had biological and chemical weapons, she responded that Ukraine had biological research facilities that “should not fall in the hands of Russian forces”.
At the same time, the Department of State sticks to the point that allegedly there are no US-controlled biolabs in Ukraine. Hence a question to the American delegation. How does this reconcile with 2005 Agreement between the US Department of Defense and Ukrainian Ministry of Health Concerning Cooperation in the Area of Prevention of Proliferation of Technology, Pathogens, and Expertise that could be Used in the Development of Biological Weapons? This document is available on the Internet. According to Article 3 of this agreement, the US Department of Defense may provide assistance to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine in the area of “cooperative biological research, biological threat agent detection and response” with regard to “dangerous pathogens located at the facilities in Ukraine”.
We emphasize that biological threats defy all borders. No region of the world can feel totally safe today. The United States supervises several hundreds of biolabs in 30 countries, i.e. in the Middle East, Africa, South-East Asia, and along the perimeter of former USSR. Washington does not agree to subject them to international verification. Starting from 2001, it has been impeding elaboration of a binding protocol to the BTWC that should envisage a reliable verification mechanism to monitor states’ compliance with the Convention. This cannot but make us think that the United States has something to conceal. I call on the colleagues from those regions to think of what sort of activity Washington is carrying out on their territories and what consequences it may have for the population.
We foresee the reaction of our Western colleagues who will definitely say that this information is all fake and Russian propaganda. However, this sort of wishful thinking will hardly help Europeans should Ukraine and its neighboring states have outbreaks of dangerous diseases that would subsequently spread beyond their borders. This risk seems rather real if we take into account considerable interest that Ukrainian radical and nationalist groups have in research of dangerous pathogens that was conducted in Ukraine in the interests of the US Department of Defense. We have information that Pentagon instructed its Ukrainian protégés that, should any incidents occur, they should instantly accuse Russian Armed Forces who allegedly launch strikes against research and medical facilities, or blame it all on “Russian subversive teams”.
The Russian Defense Ministry keeps analyzing the biological situation in Ukraine and all incoming materials. What we shared today is a small portion of information that we have. We will share the details shortly as UNSC official documents so that you could study them.
We feel obliged to keep the Security Council updated on the situation with US military-purpose biological activity in Ukraine that creates real risks for international peace and security. We intend to get back to this topic soon. We would not exclude a possibility of activating mechanisms envisaged by Articles 5 and 6 of the BTWC. For now, we would like to hear answers of the US side to the questions that we asked.