On March 23-24th, the pro-Kremlin channel “Obieqtivi” aired a story about the Richard Lugar Laboratory of Tbilisi. Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzieva and American journalist Jeffrey Silverman argued that dangerous experiments are being conducted on soldiers at the Lugar Laboratory in Georgia, while the laboratory itself is engaged in illegal activities. The story does not provide any arguments to support the voiced claims. In addition, in the story of March 23rd, the suspicions regarding the Lugar Lab are being bolstered by the fact that the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, confirmed the existence of dangerous substances in the Ukrainian bio-laboratories.
The March 23rd story also quoted Irma Inashvili, leader of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, saying that the work of Lugar Lab should be made public and transparent so that no further questions could be asked.
The claims voiced by “Obieqtivi TV” and its respondents are false. In fact: 1) Ongoing research in Ukraine and Georgia did not involve conducting dangerous experiments on soldiers but testing their blood samples for antibodies; 2) Victoria Nuland’s statement does not confirm the illegal or harmful activities carried out in the laboratories; it indicates that the research materials of the laboratories may be misused by Russia; 3) Lugar Laboratory does not conduct secret research, information on research projects is public, and journalists and experts visit the laboratory rather often.
Aims of the research conducted in Ukraine and Georgia involving soldiers
The study entitled “Arthropod-borne and zoonotic infections among military personnel in Georgia” was conducted in 2014-2016 to determine the presence of antibodies to arthropod-borne and zoonotic (animal-to-human) infections and subsequent causes of these infections. The study provides insight into what types of pathogens humans have come in contact with in the past. According to the NCDC, military personnel is an interesting population group in the sense that they frequently undergo field exercises and may come into contact with zoonotic pathogens in a variety of environments. Notably, similar studies are being performed in other countries to detect antibodies to various diseases. The research is completely safe, and the soldiers participating in it were informed about the objectives of the research.
- Bulgarian Journalist Disseminates Disinformation Regarding Military Personnel Research in Georgia and Ukraine
What did Victoria Nuland state?
The statement by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, is being manipulatively disseminated by Russian-language sources, claiming that she has confirmed the existence of secret laboratories. Information about US-funded Ukrainian laboratories and their activities has not been kept secret, and Nuland only said that it must be ensured that research materials do not fall into the hands of the Russian side. She also did not rule out the possibility of Russia using biological or chemical weapons and then blaming Ukraine.
Nuland did not specify which research materials she was referring to. Still, there are public reports that Ukrainian laboratories and laboratories in other countries are studying dangerous diseases. The US has been assisting Ukraine in the technical modernization of Biolabs since 2005. In 2005, a biological threat reduction program was launched between Ukraine and the United States. The agreement aims to neutralize the biological threats posed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which is part of the Nunn-Lugar program, which operated in Russia until 2012.
For years, the Kremlin has spread conspiracies as if biological weapons are being developed in Ukraine but has not provided any evidence. In addition, disinformation has been repeatedly voiced about the spread of dangerous pathogens, although no such leak has occurred in Ukraine, and the diseases that the Kremlin and its sources cite as ‘evidence’ are natural viruses spread around the world that have nothing to do with Ukrainian laboratories.
For more, see:
- 4 Disinformation of the Kremlin around Biological Laboratories in Ukraine
The activities of Lugar Laboratory are transparent. Experts and journalists have visited the centre several times.
It is often appealed that the Lugar Center conducts prohibited research and, therefore, their activities are not transparent. Irma Inashvili voiced the same claim. In fact, the laboratory diagnoses and prevents infectious diseases. The allegation about the Lab being non-transparent is unfounded, as the laboratory was visited by security and bio-experts from about 20 countries; however, despite an invitation from Georgia, Russia refused to participate in the visit. Journalists, including Russian journalists, visited the centre of Lugar several times.
For more on Lugar Lab’s activities, see:
- Why does Kremlin Attack Lugar Lab Periodically?
- The Myth that the Lugar Laboratory Conducts Biological Experiments on the Georgian Population is Groundless
Who are Dilyana Gaytandzieva and Jeffrey Silverman?
Dilyana Gaytandzieva and Jeffrey Silverman have been involved in information warfare against Lugar Lab for years.
Gaytandzieva is a Bulgarian journalist linked to the Kremlin and Russian-owned Ministry of Defense “TV Zvezda,” who at various times published leaked documents from Georgian official agencies, including those obtained after the cyber-attacks.
Both Gaitanjieva and Jeffrey Silverman often appear on Russian propaganda channels against Lugar’s laboratory. Silverman is also the author of USA Really, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Five False Allegations Against Richard Lugar Laboratory of Tbilisi
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