Russian officials accused the U.S. of funding biowarfare efforts in Ukraine, drawing concern from Western officials who fear that a crescendo of allegations about weapons of mass destruction could serve as a pretext for Russia to unleash chemical or biological weapons itself.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday said that a U.S. defense agency funded research into bat coronaviruses in Ukraine and the country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that “these were not peaceful experiments.”
On Wednesday, the White House rejected such accusations, saying allegations over the use of biological or chemical weapons could mark efforts by the Russians to lay the groundwork for their use in the Ukraine conflict.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that similar allegations about work on a chemical weapons program in Ukraine “have been debunked,” adding that the claim is “an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent.”
A spokesman for the State Department had no additional comment on Russia’s latest accusations.
Western officials increasingly worry that such accusations are a sign that Moscow, which has raised pressure on Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol with more-dangerous conventional weapons, is growing more willing to resort to using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine. [Continue reading…]