Moscow has targeted Tbilisi-based Lugar Center for Public Health Research again, claiming that African Swine Fever (ASF) was bred in the Georgian facility.
“We believe that the 2007 ASF strain with increased contagiousness was engineered in Georgian biolaboratory run by the Pentagon,” Interfax quoted Igor Kirillov, chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical and biological protection force, as saying.
The Russian military official continued: “its spread caused significant economic damage to several states, including Ukraine and Poland, and excluded them from a number of pork exporters.”
Ukraine Main Target
But the Lugar Center, the USD 100 million lab, has not been the main target of Kirillov’s bio-warfare allegations this time.
During the briefing on March 7, the Russian military official claimed 30 biological facilities, working with pathogens of “dangerous infections,” were operating in Ukraine under joint programs with the U.S.
Kirillov claimed the Health Ministry of Ukraine ordered the destruction of “bioagents” in these laboratories since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine.
“Under the pretext of testing means of coronavirus treatment and prevention, several thousand samples of serum of patients, primarily of Slavic ethnicity, were taken from Ukraine to Walter Reed Research Institute of the U.S. Army,” Kirillov doubled down the sensationalist claims.
- Foreign Experts: Lugar Lab Transparent in its Activities
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- Q&A: Russia’s Lugar Center Information Offensive
The Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a subsidiary of the Georgian Health Ministry’s National Center for Disease Control, has been a target of Moscow’s disinformation and reproval since its very launch in 2011.
Moscow voiced the pig disease accusations already back in 2012, when the chief of consumer protection agency (RosPotrebNadzor), Gennady Onishchenko, alleged Georgia had brought the pig disease in Russia.
In that context, Onishchenko then mentioned Lugar Center, saying he could not understand why U.S. “military medics” and “epidemiologists” were stationed in Georgia “at our borders.”
A month ago, Russian-controlled KGB of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia claimed Tbilisi could use the Center’s research into infectious diseases for “bioterrorism” in the region. The KGB also accused Georgia of staying silent over the cases of African Swine Fever in the region and nearby Sachkhere Municipality.
In 2020, Russian ruling party MP Yury Shvytkin went as far to suggest that chemical nerve-agents like “Novichok” — that Moscow is accused of using against its critics — are produced in the U.S. and Georgian labs.
The Georgian Government have repeatedly denied the accusations, opening the lab to foreign media and experts for inspection in 2018, to which Russian military medics declined to join.
Also back in 2018, NCDC Georgia asserted that the facility, now fully managed and financed by the Georgian Government, fulfills its international obligations for transparency in accordance with the UN Conventions.