The Foreign Ministry of Russia claimed on Tuesday that the nation’s military had “confirmed” the existence of American-funded biological laboratories in Ukraine used for developing “biological weapons.”
Russian troops reportedly found “documentation” showing Ukrainian scientists destroying evidence of “plague, anthrax, rabbit-fever, cholera and other lethal diseases” studied in the country’s laboratories on February 24, according to a statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, as part of their ongoing assault on the country. Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February that he claimed was necessary to “de-Nazify” the country. Russia initially invaded Ukraine in 2014 and has been illegally occupying its Crimean Peninsula since.
The government of communist China rapidly began publicizing the alleged Russian findings, demanding that Washington reveal all classified information on its biological military research. The official stance of the Chinese government is that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic – which began in Wuhan, China, in 2019, was triggered by a laboratory leak in Maryland and covered up using cases of e-cigarette injuries. Beijing has yet to explain how the virus began spreading in Wuhan before it spread in the United States if this theory is accurate, or how non-contagious injuries could secretly be cases of highly infectious Chinese coronavirus transmission.
Wuhan is home to one of China’s top biological facilities, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which itself has been the subject of much speculation as it had reportedly been studying bat coronaviruses shortly before the pandemic began. World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus demanded further investigation into the WIV last year after an official W.H.O. study declared a laboratory leak as highly unlikely to have caused the pandemic. Tedros described his own agency’s report as not “extensive enough.”
“We confirm that, during the special military operation in Ukraine, the Kiev [sic] regime was found to have been concealing traces of a military biological programme implemented with funding from the United States Department of Defence,” Zakharov’s statement on Tuesday read. “Documentation on the urgent eradication of highly hazardous pathogens of plague, anthrax, rabbit-fever, cholera and other lethal diseases on February 24 was received from employees of Ukrainian biolaboratories.”
U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland confirmed in a Congressional hearing on Tuesday that Ukraine was home to “biological research facilities” and that the State Department was “quite concerned” Russia would seize them as part of its military campaign in the country.
“Ukraine has biological research facilities which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of,” Nuland said in response to a question from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), “so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”
Nuland added she would have “no doubt” that Russian forces would be responsible in the event of any biological attack in Ukraine.
Zakharova did not disclose where, exactly, these alleged documents came from or how Russia concluded that evidence of a biological laboratory studying infectious diseases necessarily meant Ukraine was developing biological weapons. It also did not detail America’s alleged involvement in the matter.
Nonetheless, Zakharova declared, “we can conclude that components of biological weapons were being developed in Ukrainian laboratories in direct proximity to Russian territory.”
The Russian spokeswoman did not link the alleged discovery to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese government, while enthusiastically seizing on the alleged discovery – also did not, though it clearly implied that laboratories in Ukraine should raise pandemic concerns. In remarks on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian – the first to claim without evidence that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began at the Fort Detrick, Maryland, U.S. army facility – called Moscow’s allegations the “tip of the iceberg” and again mentioned Fort Detrick.
“Using such pretexts as cooperating to reduce biological safety risks and strengthening global public health, the US has 336 biological labs in 30 countries under its control. 336, you heard me right,” Zhao said. “It also conducted many biological military activities at the Fort Detrick base at home.”
“What is the true intention of the US? What has it done specifically? The international community has long-held doubts,” Zhao continued. “However, the US has kept stonewalling, and even dismissing the international community’s doubts as spreading disinformation.”
Zhao concluded by demanding that the Pentagon release all confidential information regarding “biological military activities.”
Zhao and other spokespeople at the Foreign Ministry have repeatedly demanded access to confidential American military research allegedly to explore the potential origins of Chinese coronavirus. In May 2021, for example, Zhao demanded America “immediately launch a virus origins-tracing study on itself” and let Chinese scientists into military facilities for that purpose.
The Russian government has supported China’s demands to investigate American biological research, often pointing to Ukraine as home to key laboratories. Moscow has not, however, called for similar investigations into the Wuhan Institute of Virology and has condemned American officials for requesting them.
“We consider it not a proper time, being somewhere in the middle of a severe crisis, an unprecedented crisis, to try to blame everything on the international health organization (the World Health Organization) or, the next day, on China,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in May 2020. Peskov claimed that any suggestion the WIV was involved in the pandemic was “non-diplomatic” and that American officials needed “proof” for such “very, very serious” allegations.
Top Russian virologist Viktor Zuev has similarly dismissed accusations that the virus originated in the WIV by asserting no proof exists that the virus was genetically modified – which is not a claim that American officials under President Donald Trump had made regarding the WIV.
Outside of the Kremlin, Russian politicians have agreed with the Chinese government that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began in America.
“The US laboratories where scientists study, explore and maybe even create new biological weapons are now located in Georgia, in some counties of Eastern Europe. That must be taken under control,” Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of Russia’s Lower Parliament House the State Duma, the top lawmaking body, said in April 2021, claiming that the virus came from a “leak from one of those laboratories that they [the Americans] have opened around the world.”