Image: IAEA/Dana Sacchetti
New York: Amid new claims by Moscow of a covert biological weapons programme in Ukraine, the Director of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) affirmed on Friday that the UN is not aware of any such programme and has neither the mandate nor the technical operational capacity to investigate it - a message first delivered to the Security Council on 11 and 18 March, by High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu.
“This remains the case today,” Thomas Markram said.
The Russian Federation, the United States and Ukraine are all States Parties to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons.
Channels for recourse
Mr. Markram – who is also the Deputy to the High Representative - explained that the Convention does contain several measures which concerned States Parties can us to address concerns or suspicions about the activities of their peers.
For example, he said, pursuant to Article V, States Parties can consult one another and cooperate in solving any problems through international procedures, including on a bilateral basis. Noting that one such procedure is the convening of a consultative meeting, he said other possibilities exist under Article VI.
“I would therefore encourage any States Parties with compliance concerns to use the procedures available under the Convention,” Mr. Markram said. The Office for Disarmament Affairs stands ready to support any procedures under the Convention that States Parties may decide to use.
Alleged biosecurity threat to Eastern Europe
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said his country called today’s meeting – the third on this topic - because it continues to receive evidence that the United States Department of Defense is carrying out dangerous biological projects of a secret military nature on the western border with his country.
“It is a real threat to the biosecurity of our country, the region and, given the cross-border nature of these bio threats, to the whole world,” he said. Yet, as confirmed by Mr. Markram, neither Ukraine nor the United States has included information on this threat in the reporting stipulated by the Convention, he said.
Preventing such dangerous activity is only possible through his country’s “special military operation”, he said. He drew attention to “Project 3007” in which Ukrainian specialists, under the supervision of United States colleagues, collect water samples from the Dnipro, Danube and other waterways, looking for pathogens, such as typhoid. The samples are then sent to the United States.
The logical question is “why?”, he said. A glance at a map of Ukraine’s water sources is enough to understand that the results could be used to create a biological catastrophe in the Russian Federation, through the Azov and Black Seas, and in Eastern Europe, he added.
Among other claims, he charged Ukraine with attempting to spread dangerous bioaerosols across the Russian Federation, pointing to its receipt of 50 drones in January equipped to deliver such an assault, and the United States with financing such activities through subcontractors.
He said another bio incident in 2020 using “false money” as a carrier for tuberculosis in Luhansk, endangered the children who found it. “This money was infected with a bioactive tuberculosis,” he claimed, confirmation of “a very worrying trend”. He went on to claim that other evidence implicates US scientists in carrying out experiments on psychiatric patients in hospital number 3, in Kharkov.
‘Fanciful’ claims, conspiracy theories
In turn, US deputy ambassador Richard M. Mills lamented that the United Nations disarmament director had been asked to join today’s “truly farcical conversation”. He blamed Russia for again using the Council as a platform to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about Ukraine as it continues its brutal and inhumane assault on the Ukrainian people.
“Russia repeatedly debases the Council through these absurd meetings,” he said. Endless claims of chemical and biological weapons programmes in Ukraine are categorically false and “ludicrous”. In making “fanciful” assertions about poisoned bank notes, secret treatments on psychiatric prisoners and non-disclosure agreements, “it is as if the Russian delegation’s talking points came from a bad spy novel,” he said.
Track record of chemical weapons use
They follow a well-warn pattern, he said, in which Russian authorities accuse others, of the very violations that they have perpetrated or intend to perpetrate. He cautioned against lending these “outlandish” claims any credence - beyond watching closely for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russian forces themselves.
What should not be forgotten, he said, is that Russia has a long and well-documented track record of chemical weapons use, including in attempted assassinations and the poisoning of President Vladimir Putin’s enemies, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny.