On May 7, Azerbaijan denied Russia’s claim that it was hosting foreign-funded labs to research biological weapons, a propaganda claim that Russia was also targeting Ukraine.
Azerbaijan’s State Security Service (SSB) has stated categorically that such labs have never operated in the country. The SSB statement came after Russia claimed it could face biological threats from leaked labs in countries on its southern borders.
On April 27, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, said:
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and its satellites deployed a network of bio-laboratories in the space of the former Soviet republics – in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and in Armenia, where, under the guise of scientific research, they carry out military-biological activities.
Moscow has been making similar misrepresentations for years and used the same false narrative to help defend its February 24 invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin confuses bioweapons labs with legitimate biological research into infectious diseases and other public health threats.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was the first post-Soviet leader to take a neutral stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Azerbaijan, along with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and Azerbaijan has also sent fuel aid to Ukrainian farmers to help prevent Ukraine’s agricultural sector from collapsing.
Azerbaijan is one of the countries that could help Europe overcome its dependence on Russian gas. On May 9, Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov told the World Utilities Congress in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates that his country plans to increase exports to southern countries. Europe and was already trying to improve its infrastructure in order to increase the supply of natural gas to Europe.
On May 4, the EU proposed banning Russian oil imports and is considering banning Russian gas imports, which could impose a more difficult step. Europe imported more than 41% of gas from Russia in 2019.
In a claim previously denied by Polygraph.info, the Russian Defense Ministry suggested that the United States was funding labs in Ukraine to manufacture bioagents targeting specific ethnic groups. These labs were supposed to test for anthrax and African swine fever; labs in Ukraine and Georgia had been experimenting with bats as carriers of coronavirus, according to the plot.
Moscow claimed to have Ukrainian documents as proof, and Russian news agency RIA Novosti published supposed evidence that has not been verified.
The Intercept verified evidence from Moscow, reporting that 10 Russian biologists took the risk of publicly calling out Russian authorities for lying about the documents, which only related to harmless pathogens and public health research.
One of the biologists, Yevgeny Levitin, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the bacterial samples cited as evidence of bioweapons research could be found in any public health laboratory.
“Here is a man, a swab is taken from his throat, specialists do a culture and see what bad things are growing there,” Levitin said. “The strains grown in the dish have to be compared to something. Therefore, there are samples in any normal laboratory that deals with epidemiology or even just microbiology.
“To store such strains, you don’t even need a special permit,” he said. “These pathogens are not subject to specially registered storage. You just need to fill out a special form confirming their existence. It is common practice.
In March, the Washington Post dated this line of Russian disinformation to the Soviet period. It resumed after Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999. The newspaper said the intention was to distract the Russian public from Moscow’s own biological programs.
In March, a US State Department official, Victoria Nuland, told a Senate hearing that he feared Russian troops were trying to take over biological research facilities in Ukraine.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States created the Biological Threat Reduction Program with the goal of detecting and reducing threats, not spreading them, primarily in former Soviet states where biological weapons and chemicals had been produced and stored.
In March, the US Department of Defense released a report on its “biological threat reduction” program in Ukraine. This effort, the agency pointed out, has long been aimed at finding ways to eliminate or reduce biological threats.
“Ukraine uses laboratory improvements provided by the United States and other partners to support broader public and veterinary health goals, such as monitoring the spread of COVID-19, disease preparedness and control. African swine fever, which helped Ukrainian farmers protect their herds from infectious diseases. diseases and the protection of the food supply in Ukraine,” the department says.
Polygraph.info and other fact checkers have debunked similar false claims about the development of biological weapons at the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Tbilisi, Georgia. These false claims have been fueled by pro-Kremlin far-right groups as well as Moscow.
According to the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, the Defense Threat Reduction Office (DTRO) – BAKU “is responsible for all activities related to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in Azerbaijan, including nuclear and biological counter-proliferation programmes; arms control inspections, training and exercises.
On May 9, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called “lies” allegations of Pentagon-sponsored secret weapons labs in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.