Is Putin targeting US bioweapon labs in Ukraine? The TRUTH behind Internet theory

The labs in question are part of a network of facilities linked to the Biological Threat Reduction Program, a US-government-funded effort


                            Is Putin targeting US bioweapon labs in Ukraine? The TRUTH behind Internet theory
A theory has emerged that Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) is taking out dangerous US biolabs (R) in Ukraine. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images, Twitter)

A Twitter thread has gone viral after making eyebrow-raising claims that the Russian government is taking down American biolabs in Ukraine under the pretext of the "special military operation" that has pushed the world to the brink of an all-out war.

The claims surfaced shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met recently and issued a joint statement slamming US bioweapons activities. It's worth noting that both Russia and the Soviet Union have a long history of bioweapons-related misinformation. The latest allegations came as Russia launched a terrifying military operation in preparation for a potential invasion of Ukraine.

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"HOLY SHIT! I think I may be onto something about #Ukraine," a Twitter user who goes by the handle @WarClandestine posted. "Zelensky said the Russians are firing at 'military installations'. How broad is that term? I am seeing speculation that could include US-installed Biolabs. At first, I was like no way. Then I started digging..." the post continued.



 

The thread then went on to note how both China and Russia had decried US bioweapons activities. It also used a map showing the key areas in Ukraine where Russians launched targeted strikes, and claimed that US-funded labs were located in those sites. The thread also mentioned Dr Anthony Fauci and his controversial emails about the origins of Covid-19. The thread appeared to suggest that an NIH-funded lab in Wuhan had leaked the deadly virus. The user interpreted Putin's latest actions as a cover for taking down these labs against a global bioweapons threat that could potentially unleash another pandemic.



 



 

However, such claims have been debunked in the past. The labs at issue are reportedly part of a network of facilities linked to the Biological Threat Reduction Program, which is a US government-funded effort dating back to the 1990s aimed at reducing the threat of the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction programs, including in countries like Ukraine that was once a part of the communist regime. The Soviets had maintained a massive bioweapons program, and part of the role of the US-linked labs is to take custody over leftover supplies, similar to a central reference laboratory in Kazakhstan. According to Matt Field, editor of the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, the major focus of the labs in the network is on disease surveillance and public health.

It's important to note that Russia was also an active participant in the US effort at one point and helped repurpose said facilities and the scientists who worked there. However, labs in former Soviet states have become targets of disinformation in Russian media campaigns after it faced international scrutiny, Field wrote. Ukrainian facilities have faced allegations of conducting bioweapons research and harmful experiments on local citizens too.



 

Biosecurity expert Filippa Lentzos, who was part of an international team that visited one prominent lab in Ukraine, told the Bulletin that she had "access to all areas of the site, examined relevant documentation, and interviewed staff.” She also found the site operating with “significant transparency” and saw “nothing out of the ordinary.” Lentzos concluded that the Russian disinformation campaigns had "grown in response to scrutiny of Moscow for using and enabling the use of chemical weapons."

The Biological Threat Reduction Program’s efforts in Ukraine involve “consolidat[ing] and secur[ing] pathogens of concern” and helping “detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats," according to the US embassy in Kyiv. The program has built laboratories for Ukrainian government agencies, assisted the country’s COVID-19 response, as well as supported US/Ukrainian scientific collaborations on avian, agricultural, and other pathogens. Furthermore, the labs are run by the Ukrainian government itself, according to The Bulletin.

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