Russia claims US running secret biological weapons lab in Georgia

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry says Thursday that the United States appeared to be running a clandestine biological weapons lab in the country of Georgia, allegedly flouting international conventions and posing a direct security threat to Russia — allegations the Pentagon angrily rejected.

The exceptional accusations from Moscow come the same day US, British, and Dutch officials accused Russian military intelligence of being behind multiple cyberattacks.

Maj. Gen. Igor Kirillov, the head of the Russian military’s radiation, chemical, and biological protection troops, alleges at a briefing that the lab in Georgia is part of a network of US labs near the borders of Russia and China.

The allegations are based largely on materials about the US-funded Richard G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Tbilisi, Georgia. Kirillov claims the documents released by former Georgian State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze show the facility is funded entirely by the US and the Georgian ownership it has on paper is a cover.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon strongly rejects Kirillov’s claims, calling them “an invention of the imaginative and false Russian disinformation campaign against the West” and “obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia’s bad behavior on many fronts.”

“The US is not developing biological weapons in the Lugar Center,” Pahon says.

“The mission of the Lugar Center is to contribute to protection of citizens from biological threats, promote public and animal health through infectious disease detection, epidemiological surveillance, and research for the benefit of Georgia, the Caucasus region and the global community,” Pahon says.

The center opened in 2013 and was named for former US senator Richard Lugar. Before he left Congress, the Indiana Republican was part of a bipartisan US effort to help secure the Soviet arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

— AP

The building of a US laboratory in Georgia is shown in a picture released by the Russian Defense Ministry during a briefing in the Russian Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on October 4, 2018. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, via AP)

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