Analysis of the News “Experiments on people are being conducted in Ukraine”

March 2022

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

ARE EXPERIMENTS ON HUMAN BEINGS CONDUCTED IN UKRAINE? The order is that Russia must not discover BIO WEAPONS

https://www.alo.rs/svet/ruske-vesti/603128/u-ukrajini-se-sprovode-eksperimenti-nad-ljudima-naredba-je-da-rusija-ne-sme-da-otkrije-biolosko-oruzje/vest

Fake news/ Manipulative news

Narratives that were used and created:

  • The United States of America (USA) produces biological weapons in Ukraine;
  • USA established and controls biolaboratories in Ukraine;

Disputed parts of the news:

In this news it is several times written about “American laboratories in Ukraine” and that the United States of America controls those laboratories, which the text either explicitly states or insinuates to be laboratories for the production of biological weapons.

At the very beginning, it is stated that the USA recognized the existence of biological laboratories in Ukraine, even though the existence of biological laboratories is not a secret, but publicly available information. “While Russia has been warning about the existence of biolaboratories in Ukraine for a long time, the US has only recently acknowledged their existence. And that’s because of the special operation of the Russian army. The warning of American officials appeared when the Russian operation began…” This part also relativizes Russia’s aggression by calling it a “special operation of the Russian army” and “Russian operation”.

While the second part of the title reads “The order is that Russia must not discover BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS”, the text itself does not say anything about this – who issued the order, when and to whom. Nevertheless, the author conveys a part of the statement of the US official, but completely shortens it, takes it out of its original context and uses it in the context of the desired narrative.

“A special operation that the Russian army started in Ukraine was followed by the warning from the director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which is part of the Pentagon’s Biological Threat Reduction Program, Robert Pope, who said that there is a danger that the Russian military could occupy these laboratories in Ukraine.”

If we look at Mr. Pope’s original statement, we will see that there is a network of laboratories in Ukraine that are connected to the US and work with dangerous pathogens,[1] but that they are not facilities for the production of biological weapons. He also states that the US supports such overseas facilities in Ukraine and other countries and that they are public health facilities and laboratories that conduct peaceful scientific research and disease surveillance, and that they are operated by the host countries. We also found out that these facilities are at risk of Russian invasion of Ukraine due to the danger of being damaged and leakage of pathogens into the environment. “We have confidence that as long as the electrical power is turned on and the people we have trained are present at the facility, the biosafety officers, that these pathogens are safe and secure to international standards”, Pope said.

In the news in question, it is very briefly and almost imperceptibly stated that Pope said that “biolaboratories in Ukraine do not produce biological weapons”, but immediately after that it is explained and stated that “maps with the locations of American biolaboratories in Ukraine began to appear on social networks, as well as information that they can actually produce biological weapons”. However, the author does not refer to any source to confirm these statements.

On the other hand, US and Ukrainian officials have denied these claims on several occasions and labeled them as fabricated and false. On his official Facebook page, Volodymyr Zelensky denied that weapons of mass destruction are made in Ukraine. The White House addressed the allegations that the US has laboratories for biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine as false. The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) stated that “the United States is not assisting Ukraine with biological weapons in its war with Russia and there are no indications that biological weapons are being used by Ukraine.” The US State Department stated: “The Kremlin is intentionally spreading outright lies that the United States and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine. We have also seen PRC officials repeat these conspiracy theories. We have also seen PRC officials echo these conspiracy theories. This Russian disinformation is total nonsense and not the first time Russia has invented such false claims against another country.  Also, these claims have been debunked conclusively and repeatedly over many years.”

The news reports on several occasions that the purpose of existence as well as the activity of these laboratories is unknown to the public. In this context, the statement of the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, is reported, who says that the number of biolaboratories under American control in the world is increasing, and that “it is not known what happens behind the walls of the laboratories”, and that Russian officials have good reasons to think that it is precisely about the development of biological weapons. The news reports the statement of toxicologist Radomir Kovačević who “believes that the information about the existence of American biolaboratories in Ukraine are correct, but what is unknown is with what purpose they were founded…”

Such allegations are not true. As previously explained, these laboratories do not produce biological weapons, they are not American or controlled by the US, but by the Government of Ukraine. Also, information about the purpose of their existence are not a secret. As reported by the BBC – Ukraine has dozens of public health laboratories that work to research and mitigate the threats of dangerous diseases. Some of these labs receive financial and other support from the US, the European Union and the World Health Organization (WHO) – as is the case in many other countries. Despite Russian claims that these are “secret” labs, details of US involvement can be found on the US embassy’s website.

In January of this year, the US released a video explaining that its Cooperative Threat Reduction Program aims, as the name suggests, to reduce threats from the proliferation of biological weapons. All biological laboratories supported by this program are owned and operated by the Government of the host country to meet local needs.

The news also talks about the “agreement signed in 2005 by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and American Department of Defense”, which is actually not true. In 2005, an Agreement was signed between the Department of Defense of the United States of America and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on cooperation in the field of prevention of the proliferation of technology, pathogens and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons. Under this agreement, Pentagon assisted several Ukrainian public health laboratories with the aim of suppressing and disabling the production of biological weapons, improving security and safety against dangerous pathogens and technology used in research. As the NY Times states, there are biological laboratories inside Ukraine, and since 2005, the United States of America has provided backing  to number of institutions to prevent the production of biological weapons.

Article 1, paragraph 2 of this agreement states: “The Ministry of Health of Ukraine shall use all material (including equipment, instruments, and other supplies), training of personnel and services provided in accordance with this Agreement exclusively for the purpose of preventing the proliferation of technology, pathogens and expertise that are located at facilities in Ukraine and that could be used in the development of biological weapons.”

 

[1] Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity expert at King’s College London, explains that pathogens stored at biological labs are simply bacteria and viruses, and “not blueprints or components of biological weapons”. The reason they are kept in secure facilities is for bio-safety, so people don’t make themselves sick by getting access to them. BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/6071170

Author: Jovana Bogosavljević