Moscow has accused Ukraine and the US of “military biological" activities in Ukraine. A UN vote will determine whether a committee should be formed to investigate such claims.
The UN Security Council has scheduled a vote on a resolution that would establish a commission to investigate Russian claims that Ukraine and the United States are carrying out “military biological" activities that violate the convention prohibiting the use of biological weapons.
Moscow circulated a 310-page document to council members last week alleging that the US Defense Department has colluded with Ukraine to carry out biological warfare against Russia.
The document included an official complaint to the Security Council, allowed under Article VI of the 1972 biological weapons convention, and a draft resolution that would authorize the Security Council to set up a commission comprising the 15 council members to investigate Russia’s claims.
Russia’s initial allegation of secret American biological warfare labs in Ukraine, made soon after its military campaign began on February 24, has been rejected by Ukrainian leaders, officials at the White House, Pentagon and some members of global scientific community.
Ukraine does have a network of biological labs that have gotten funding and research support from the US. They are owned and operated by Ukraine and are part of an initiative called the Biological Threat Reduction Program that aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly outbreaks, whether natural or manmade.
The US efforts date back to work in the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s program for weapons of mass destruction.
"Weaponising deadly pathogens"
In September, the 197 state parties to the biological weapons convention met at Russia’s request on the activities at biological laboratories in Ukraine, but they couldn't reach a consensus.
Diplomats said it is highly unlikely that the Russian draft resolution will be adopted by the Security Council when it is put to the vote, expected late Wednesday afternoon.
Approval requires a minimum nine “yes” votes and no veto by one of the five permanent members – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China.
Russia called a Security Council meeting on its claims last Thursday, which the United States and its Western allies vehemently dismissed.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the US of conducting work in Ukraine with deadly pathogens — including cholera, plague, anthrax and influenza — that couldn’t be justified under the guise of public health. He said documents and evidence recovered by Russian authorities suggested a military application.
Nebenzia told the Security Council that the Russian military during its time in Ukraine had recovered drones capable of spraying bioagents as well as documents that he said related to research on the possibility of spreading pathogens through bats and migrating birds.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, described Russia’s claims as “absurd."
Weaponising deadly pathogens, she said, "would pose as much a threat to the European continent and to Ukraine itself as they would to any other country.”