Russia has renewed accusations of a US-backed biological weapons programme in Ukraine, allegations that were dismissed as “disinformation” by most members of the UN Security Council.
Representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom – amongst others – rebuked Russia for requesting a Security Council meeting on Friday for the purpose of discussing its claims. Last week, the Security Council also held a session at Russia’s request to hear similar allegations.
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US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield likened the Russian account of biological weapons in Ukraine to internet-spurred conspiracy theories.
“President Biden has a word for this kind of talk: malarkey,” Thomas-Greenfield told the council.
“As I said, one week ago, Ukraine does not have a biological weapon programme. There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories, not near Russia’s border, not anywhere.”
Russia’s envoy Vasily Nebenzya claimed that components of biological weapons were created in Ukraine, saying that there are documents that prove “direct funding and supervision of the Pentagon” to Ukrainian bio laboratories.
On Friday, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, told the 15-member council that the United Nations is “not aware of any such biological weapons programme”. Nakamitsu made the same assertion at last week’s meeting.
US officials have previously explained that Ukraine has biological labs for public health research, and that Washington provides funding to different countries to strengthen biosafety.
For its part, China urged dialogue on Friday, while calling on “the relevant parties” to address Russia’s questions around claims of a biological weapons programme in Ukraine.
“We support the United Nations and all parties in ramping up the mediation efforts, and hope that all parties can do more things that are conducive to promoting peace talks, rather than adding fuel to the fire,” Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun told the Security Council.
The Security Council meeting coincided with a call between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as Washington continues to warn Beijing against coming to Moscow’s aid in Ukraine.
After Friday’s session, UK envoy Barbara Woodward called Russia’s allegations “disinformation of the desperate”, stressing Western accounts that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is stalling amid military and logistical setbacks.
“This is a perversion of the Security Council’s purpose,” Woodward said of the Russian-requested meeting.
“The only thing this council needs to hear is that Russia’s troops are leaving Ukraine,” she had said in the council session.
Later on Friday, a joint statement by Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK and the US accused Russia of subverting the United Nations’ mission.
“This meeting, and these lies, are designed for one purpose: to deflect responsibility for Russia’s war of choice and the humanitarian catastrophe it has caused,” the statement said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian border as it demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.
The war has killed more than 800 civilians, including dozens of children, and pushed more than 3.2 million people to leave Ukraine as Russian forces continue to bombard and besiege Ukrainian towns and cities.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of committing “war crimes” in Ukraine, after Biden had called Putin a “war criminal” and a “pure thug”.