China Amplifies Ukraine Biolabs’ Unsubstantiated Russian Claim

BANGKOK (AP) — As Russia steps up its assault on Ukraine, it is getting a hand from China to spread inflammatory and unsubstantiated allegations that the United States is funding biological weapons labs in Ukraine.

The United States was quick to refute Russia’s conspiracy theory, and the United Nations said it had not received any information that would support the claim, but that hasn’t stopped it from proliferating.

The partnership between the two authoritarian countries, which declared a few weeks ago that their ties had “no limits”, appears to be aimed at blurring the lines of the justification for invading Russia in what American officials have called an “information war” that some fear is laying the groundwork. for a “false flag” operation.

China’s Foreign Ministry helped fuel the fire this week, repeatedly repeating the Russian claim and calling for an investigation.

“This Russian military operation exposed the secrecy of US laboratories in Ukraine, and it is not something that can be treated superficially,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday.

“It’s not something they can understand saying that China’s statement and Russia’s conclusion is disinformation, and is absurd and ridiculous.”

Indeed, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby called the Russian claim a “load of bullshit,” but in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, CIA Director William Burns, also expressed serious concern that Russia could lay the groundwork for a chemical or biological attack. on his own, which he would then blame on the United States or Ukraine in a false flag operation.

“It’s something, as you all know very well, that’s part and parcel of Russia’s playbook,” he said. “They used these weapons against their own citizens, they at least encouraged their use in Syria and elsewhere, so this is something we take very seriously.”

Russia, China and the United States are all signatories to international conventions against the use of chemical or biological weapons, but the international community has found that Russia has used chemical weapons in assassination attempts against enemies. of President Vladimir Putin. Russia also supports the Assad government in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its people during a decade of civil war.

Moscow initially claimed that its invading forces had found evidence of hasty attempts to cover up biological weapons research in Ukraine.

The head of the Russian army’s radiological, chemical and biological protection troops, Igor Kirillov, doubled down on Thursday, saying that US-sponsored laboratories in Kiev, Kharkiv and Odessa were working on dangerous pathogens tailor-made for target Russians and other Slavs.

“We can say with high probability that one of the goals of the United States and its allies is the creation of biological agents capable of selectively infecting various ethnic groups,” Kirillov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a similar claim on Thursday, alleging that US-run labs in Ukraine were working to “develop ethnically targeted biological weapons.”

The UN Security Council has scheduled a meeting for Friday at Russia’s request to discuss Moscow’s claim. Olivia Dalton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, said the US delegation would not let it become “a place to promote their disinformation”.

However, China has actively promoted this claim, with headlines such as “Russia reveals evidence of US-funded bio-program in Ukraine” and “China urges US to release more details about biolabs in Ukraine” on the Chinese Global Television Network website. . The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper published an article on Thursday under the headline, “US tries to debunk ‘rumors’ about its biolabs in Ukraine, but can we believe it?”

A nearly three-minute video of a Russian Defense Ministry press conference repeating the allegations has been viewed more than 10 million times on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, and liked over 90,000 times.

After years of anti-American rhetoric from Communist Party leaders and state-controlled media, many Chinese are convinced that the United States cannot be trusted and that the West is in decline. while seeking to contain the rise of China.

The claim has also gained traction with far-right groups and the media in the United States.

China is widely seen as siding with Russia in the conflict, including refusing to refer to it as a war or an invasion in keeping with Moscow’s usage. He also toed Russia’s line on the root causes of the conflict, pointing to NATO’s eastward expansion and failure to acknowledge Russia’s “legitimate security concerns”.

At the same time, it also seeks to avoid fully tying itself to Russia as Belarus has done, seeking to portray itself as merely a concerned third party.

China abstained in UN votes censuring Russia and criticized economic sanctions against it. He has expressed support for the peace talks and offered his services as a mediator, although he has little experience in such a role and questions his neutrality.

Chinese officials also said Washington shouldn’t be able to complain about Russia’s actions because the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses, saying it had evidence that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of destruction. massive, although none have ever been found.

China also took the opportunity to repeat its claim that the United States created the virus that causes COVID-19 in a laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, which it first launched in a an apparent attempt to deflect US claims by then US President Donald Trump and other senior US officials that the coronavirus originated in a research lab in Wuhan, China.

Two in-depth studies published last month point to an animal market in the city as the likely origin.

“The international community has long been very concerned about US biological military activities,” Zhao said in response to a question about what evidence China had to support Russia’s claims. “What did the United States do to the base of Fort Detrick on its territory?”

This is not the first time Russia has spread misinformation about US bioweapons research.

During the Cold War in the 1980s, Russian intelligence spread the claim that the United States created HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in a lab. More recently, Russian state media has promoted theories about dangerous research at labs in Ukraine and Georgia.

In this case, Russia tried to counter the American reaction by saying that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that could be planning a false flag attack.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that Ukrainian “nationalists” had stored about 80 tons of ammonia in Zolochiv near Kharkiv for possible “provocation with toxic agents to accuse Russia of using chemical weapons”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the accusation itself was a bad omen.

“It worries me a lot because we have often been convinced that if you want to know Russia’s plans, that’s what Russia accuses others of,” he said in his nightly address to the nation on Thursday.

“I am a reasonable person. The president of a reasonable country and a reasonable people. I am a father of two children,” he said. “And no chemicals or other weapons of mass destruction were developed on my land. The whole world knows that.

In testimony before the Senate panel, Burns said the US strategy in the current dispute of declassifying and publicly releasing what is known about the false narratives and possible Russian false flag operations has paid off so far. ‘now.

“I think we had a great effect in disrupting their tactics and their calculations and demonstrating to the world that this is a premeditated and unprovoked assault built on a set of lies and false narratives,” Burns said.

“It’s an information war that I think Putin is losing.”


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