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Russia takes Ukrainian 'biological weapons' claims to UN Security Council as Putin 'gaslights' world

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The White House raised fresh concerns on Wednesday that Russia could use biological weapons in a dramatic escalation of its invasion of Ukraine.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki condemned Kremlin accusations that the United States was building a bioweapons lab in Ukraine as ‘preposterous’ and pointed out that it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who had a history of using such horrific methods to take out his enemies.

Meanwhile, attention has turned to a Soviet-era research facility in Siberia that could be where Putin stores a terrifying ‘bioweapons arsenal.’ The State Department indicated last year that Russia is running a bioweapons program, though the Kremlin denied the allegation.

‘It’s Russia that has a long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons, including in attempted assassinations and poisoning of Putin’s political enemies like Alexey Navalny,’ Psaki wrote on Twitter Wednesday. ‘It’s Russia that continues to support the Assad regime in Syria, which has repeatedly used chemical weapons. It’s Russia that has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law.’ 

Putin previously shielded his ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, from a United Nations investigation into his use of chemical weapons on civilians in the country’s ongoing civil war.

Human Rights Watch found that at least 85 chemical weapons attacks occurred in Syria between 2013 and 2018, the majority of which they blamed on the Russian-backed Syrian government. 

Both Moscow and Damascus have denied the government’s use of bioweapons even though Assad admitted to stockpiling them in a 2013 Fox interview.

On 2018 an apparent sarin gas attack in the city of Douma was reported to have killed an estimated 40 to 50 people.

Putin has previously given cover to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad when he was accused of using chemical weapons on his own people

Putin has previously given cover to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad when he was accused of using chemical weapons on his own people

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Russia could'possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine' after the Kremlin accused the United States of building a bioweapons lab in Ukraine

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Russia could ‘possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine’ after the Kremlin accused the United States of building a bioweapons lab in Ukraine

Russian officials claimed after an ‘inspection’ of the site that the attack had been staged by Western governments. 

The US State Department had accused Russia of working with Syria ‘to sanitize the locations of the suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence of chemical weapons use.’

Putin has also been accused of using chemical weapons to carry out targeted attacks — such as those against Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal.

Navalny, one of the autocrat’s highest-profile critics in recent years, fell ill on a domestic flight to Moscow in August 2020. He was taken to a Russian hospital after the plane made an emergency landing but was flown to Berlin for treatment two days later upon his wife’s insistence.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, detected that he was exposed to the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. 

Navalny was arrested when he returned to Russia in January 2021 and has been incarcerated ever since, despite international calls for his release.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having a role in poisoning Navalny. Putin laughed off accusations he was responsible when asked at an event in December 2020, and suggested it was a ‘trick’ pulled to raise the opposition leader’s profile.

Navalny’s poisoning was not the first time Putin was tied to Novichok, however.

Putin critic Alexei Navalny (seen in a video link from a prison during a court session in December 2021) was poisoned with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent, multiple countries have said

Putin critic Alexei Navalny (seen in a video link from a prison during a court session in December 2021) was poisoned with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent, multiple countries have said

Two years earlier, former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal (right) and his daughter Yulia Skripal (left) were poisoned by what British officials have said is Novichok

Two years earlier, former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal (right) and his daughter Yulia Skripal (left) were poisoned by what British officials have said is Novichok

On March 4, 2018 former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a park bench in the city of Salisbury, England.

A witness told the BBC he saw Yulia on the park bench foaming at the mouth and her eyes ‘were wide open but completely white.’

Skripal was previously convicted of ‘high treason’ by a Russian court in 2006 for allegedly revealing the identities of Europe-based Russian agents to the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency.

British authorities identified the poisonous substance as Novichok and accused Russia of attempted murder. They claim Russian agents flew to England, applied the nerve agent to Skripal’s door handle and then left the country, according to the New York Times. The Kremlin has denied any involvement. 

Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May said at the time, ‘Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.’ 

A Salisbury resident died in June of that year after applying perfume her boyfriend brought home a perfume bottle he found in the trash. Her boyfriend fell ill but survived. British law enforcement believes they succumbed to the same poison as the Skripals.

It appears Putin could have a whole stockpile of chemical weapons stored in what looks like a villain’s lair straight out of a James Bond film.

But this is the Soviet-era facility in Siberia where Vladimir Putin’s arsenal of bioweapons may be being housed today. 

The State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk Oblast is in possession of devastating diseases like smallpox and anthrax, as well as more recent killer pathogens like Ebola. 

Opened during the height of the Cold War in 1974 as a bioterrorism research centre, it is still one of Russia’s most heavily guarded sites, fenced off with barbed-wire with armed soldiers permanently stationed at its gates.

The 70,000sqft centre is about the same size as a football pitch and is one of 100 research and administrative buildings in the facility, known in Russia as ‘Vector’. 

It is one of just 59 maximum-security biolabs in the world, a status it shares with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the site at the centre of the origins of the Covid pandemic. 

The State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector (pictured), released a statement saying a gas cylinder exploded on the fifth floor in 2019

Vector has clearance to handle the world’s deadliest pathogens and workers responsible for studying the viruses wear military green, full-body hazmat suits.

The secretive level four facility is nestled in the foothills of southwestern Siberia on the border of Kazakhstan, one of the harshest and most isolated places on earth, where temperatures can plunge to as low as -35C in winter.

Russia claims the lab, one of a dozen involved in the USSR’s manufacturing of bioweapons, shut down research into the weapons in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union.  

Officially, the lab now focuses on developing vaccines for lethal viruses. Last year it launched research into prehistoric viruses found in paleolithic horses recovered from melted permafrost in Siberia.  

But a US State Department report last year claimed Russia ‘maintains an offensive biological weapons program’ despite the country insisting it had ceased such research. 

It comes after the US ambassador to the United Nations claimed that Putin could use bioweapons to overthrow the Ukrainian Government, warning ‘nothing is off the table’ for the Russian dictator.

 

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