The Department of Defense has admitted in a recent ‘fact sheet‘ release that there are more military biolabs in Ukraine than previously known. According to the Pentagon, there are 46 “peaceful” biolabs in the wartorn nation.
The United States has also worked collaboratively to improve Ukraine’s biological safety, security, and disease surveillance for both human and animal health, providing support to 46 peaceful Ukrainian laboratories, health facilities, and disease diagnostic sites over the last two decades.
The collaborative programs have focused on improving public health and agricultural safety measures at the nexus of nonproliferation.
The Ukraine biolabs have been the subject of public speculation due to the controversy surrounding the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, which the U.S. government has downplayed as a potential site of origin for the Sars-CoV-2 viral pandemic. Evidence has since come to public light that demonstrates that it is not only plausible that a ‘lab leak’ in Wuhan may be tied to the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government indirectly funded risky research at the Wuhan lab.
The Pentagon’s fact sheet sets the record straight about the origins of the WMD Threat Reduction program, but it does not necessarily allay all concerns about biolab security.
In March, the World Health Organization advised Ukraine to “destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories” to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population,” the agency told Reuters.
Also in March, Victoria Nuland, Ukraine expert and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, expressed concern about the labs falling into the hands of the Russians.
“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of,” she said. “So, we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces.”
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The DOD also underscored that there are no known WMD programs in Ukraine.
“Ukraine has no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs,” the Pentagon said. “On March 11 and 18, 2022, United Nations (UN) High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu similarly stated that the UN is not aware of any biological weapons programs in Ukraine. Those comments were reiterated on May 13, 2022, by the UN Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.”
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