The peer review exercise carried out at the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a Tbilisi-based biological research facility that has become a target of Russia’s recent bio-warfare allegations, concluded that the lab demonstrates “significant transparency about its activities.”
The inspection was conducted on November 14-15 by a group of 22 experts and observers from 17 countries, at the request of the Ministry of IDPs, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, which operates the research facility. The review was carried out pursuant to the Biological Weapons Convention (Georgia joined the convention in 1996).
According to the peer review report, the visiting team was provided access to all areas of the site, including all spaces used by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), a tenant unit of the Lugar Center.
“The facility demonstrated significant transparency about its activities. The visiting team observed nothing that was inconsistent with prophylactic, protective and other peaceful purposes,” reads the report.
“All the equipment and infrastructure observed was relevant to the prophylactic, protective and other peaceful research and diagnostic purposes stated by the visited facility,” the peer review report also noted.
Georgia’s Healthcare Minister Davit Sergeenko told reporters on November 14 that the expert visit would “once again demonstrate what we have known very well that the Lugar lab activities are transparent and in line with the Biological Weapons Convention.”
The USD 100 million lab was opened in Tbilisi outskirts in 2011 to promote public and animal health through infectious disease detection and epidemiological surveillance. The research facility was established with the U.S. support and funding.
The Lugar lab has recently come under Moscow’s propaganda offensive, with Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova claiming, “Russia’s concerns about U.S. military medical-biological activities being ‘covered up’ by the laboratory in Georgia, are fact-based, and undeniable.”
Tbilisi denounced the allegations and invited Russian experts to participate in the site visit, but Moscow “categorically rejected” the proposal, calling it “a propaganda” exercise aimed at “misleading the international community concerning the true nature of this facility.”
The Moscow-based ex-Soviet KGB officer Igor Giorgadze, Georgia’s security minister in 1993-1995, was first to press the bio-warfare allegations.
Giorgadze claimed on September 11, citing documents obtained from the facility, that 73 persons have died as a results of “experiments” there. Later, however, the exiled official denied the allegations were his own, saying he simply relied on “the people who analysed the documents.”