For some time, there has been talk of the ‘bio labs’ in Ukraine – being run by the United States.
In the protracted lead-in to Russia’s military invasion into Ukraine, talk of these labs began to crop up again in some online circles: though such talk was promptly dismissed as conspiracy theory by several major outlets.
All of this has changed in the last few days.
And the direction the narrative has gone in in response is fascinating (and worrying) to observe: even if predictable, as we’ll see.
Let’s start with what the Russians are actually saying: and then we’ll get to the real issue, which is how Western officials and media have chosen to reframe the narrative – and what this reframing seems to be signifying is going to happen.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said a few days ago that the Ukrainian bio labs (which we now know absolutely do exist) are engaged in the development of biological weapons.
The statement also accuses Kiev of having carried out an “emergency cleansing”: this having been to remove evidence of the programme (and dangerous materials). These alleged biological components have allegedly been worked on in at least two facilities: one in Kharkov and one in Poltava.
Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has taken place in both these cities in recent days.
Zakarova claimed Russia’s military has received documents concerning the alleged liquidation of dangerous substances, dated to 24th February: which would be two days after the initial Russian incursion into Ukraine.
US officials have of course denied running the bio labs in Ukraine: calling it “laughable”. And, typically, the media has for weeks been suggesting that anyone who believes the Ukrainian bio labs are for biological warfare purposes is connected to Q-Anon.
Because, you know, these days *anyone* who raises awkward questions automatically belongs to that group of idiots.
But the claim about the ’emergency cleansing’ that’s taken place appears to be true: it seems to have been confirmed by US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. “We are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces,” Nuland told the US Senate on Tuesday.
We’ll come back to that in a moment. But let’s further lay out the Russian military’s accusations.
On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed the labs could have been developing biological materials capable of selectively hitting various ethnic groups. A statement reads: “The Americans have already managed to remove from the laboratories in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa a large amount of documents, including databases, biomaterials and equipment to the Lviv Research Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene and to the U.S. consulate in Lviv. The probability of the transfer of part of the collection to Poland has not been ruled out…”
Needless to say, the Russian claims have been completely dismissed by Western sources: as ‘Russian Disinformation’.
“The Russian accusations are absurd, they are laughable and you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey. There’s nothing to it. It’s classic Russian propaganda,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
Now, let’s be fair: it may be that the labs are benign: their existence and activities perfectly innocent and above-board. A ‘bio lab’ does not automatically equate to ‘bio weapons’: if it did, there would be no biological research facilities anywhere that wouldn’t fall under suspicion.
According to PolitiFact (from February 22nd): ‘There are no U.S. military-run labs in Ukraine, said Andy Weber, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs… “Rather, the U.S. Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has provided technical support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public health laboratories, whose mission is analogous to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”
It adds, “These laboratories have recently played an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
And hey, look, all of this explanation may be true.
The Biological Threat Reduction Program, according to the US Embassy in Ukraine, “works with partner countries to counter the threat of outbreaks (intentional, accidental or natural) of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases.”
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Ukraine “operates a little over a dozen” biolabs for biodefense and public health response. She said the US has, at least in the past, “provided assistance” to the labs “in the context of biosafety.”
Alright, fine. But why it has taken this long for the subject of those labs to be talked about more candidly?
And, you know, any bio lab would obviously claim to be engaged in purely noble and necessary work. For example, China is not about to admit that the Wuhan lab had anything to do with COVID 19: and, for that matter, China’s eagerness to join in with the Russian accusations is obviously a case of trying to deflect away questions about Wuhan (and China has already been trying to blame the US for COVID since the start of the pandemic).
But what are we to make of what Victoria Nuland said?
In her testimony, Nuland expressed fears that “Russian forces may be seeking to gain control” of those installations.
Firstly, yes: this is the same Victoria Nuland who was involved in the US-engineered Maidan events in Ukraine 2014, the same Victoria Nuland who admitted the US had spent five billion dollars to bring about regime change in Ukraine, and the same Victoria Nuland who was infamously caught on tape, while discussing those very events, saying “Fuck the EU”.
Secondly, Nuland’s comments invite an obvious question: if the ‘research materials’ in the US/Ukrainian labs do not constitute ‘bio weapon’ type threats, then why is Washington worried about them falling into Russian hands?
After all, doesn’t Russia have its own such labs: and, one would assume, access to similar ‘materials’ in its own facilities in Russia?
Also, Nuland’s statements had to later be backtracked on: apparently to make clear she wasn’t referring to any bio weapon type research or materials, but just the research materials in some general sense.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reported to have ‘advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population…’
Further, ‘The WHO would not say when it had made the recommendation nor did it provide specifics about the kinds of pathogens or toxins housed in Ukraine’s laboratories… The agency also did not answer questions about whether its recommendations were followed.’
At any rate, Zakharova’s statement – and the accusation of biological warfare research being conducted by the US and Ukraine – is a big deal. For one thing, Russia has every right to want to know why the United States has bio labs in Ukraine – right on the Russian border.
And Russia has been talking about those labs for a while now: it isn’t a sudden accusation. It could be that Russia, which is currently facing so much pressure, sanction and demonisation, is lashing out: exaggerating or falsifying the reality of whatever work was being carried out at these labs.
But if the WHO was advising Ukraine to destroy particularly high-risk pathogens in its facilities, the implication is that some degree of danger was being perceived.
Regardless of what the truth is – whether the Ukrainian labs and the American involvement is all about ‘threat reduction’ and ‘bio safety’ or whether they include something more sinister – what US officials have said in response to the Russian statements has been all too predictable: and very ominous.
They’ve simply turned the Russian accusations on their head by predicting that Russia may carry out a chemical or biological attack in Ukraine.
If this wasn’t such a serious subject, you would almost say US officials are being incredibly childish. But of course the media, dutifully picking up the baton, has run with this idea of a potential chemical attack carried out by Russia. In one swift flex, the Western propaganda establishment has tried to turn Russia’s question about the Ukraine labs into sensationalist and fear-mongering ‘predictions’ of a Russian chemical attack.
It’s almost clever: but it isn’t, it’s actually just stupid.
As the BBC reports:’Russia could be planning a chemical or biological weapon attack in Ukraine – and “we should all be on the lookout”, the White House has said.‘
Naturally, they’re even suggesting any chemical attack that might occur – and might even look like the Ukrainian side has done it – will actually be a Russian false-flag. So they’re clearly covering all bases.
Nuland agreed with Senator Marco Rubio that if a chemical or biological “incident” takes place in Ukraine, then Russia would definitely be behind it: “There is no doubt in my mind… it is a classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they’re planning to do themselves,” she said.
So, three things here.
First, the Russian accusations may well be disinformation or counter-propaganda in response to all the demonisation of Russia that’s been going on: but the American response also seems like the worried and reflexive action/response of a party with something to hide.
For one thing, they could’ve just denied or dismissed the Russian accusations and tidily laid out the purpose of the Ukrainian labs: instead of *immediately* lashing out with predictions about Russia being likely to use chemical weapons in the near future.
Second, we’re again seeing this strange new trend in Washington and beyond: of apparently calling out Russian ‘false flags’ ahead of time. I noted how curious this shift in language is already, in this article from just after the initial Russian incursion into Ukraine: and how strange it was that Western officials and media were talking about false flags *at all*, let alone predicting them in advance.
In that instance, they were talking about shelling incidents and saying Russia was going to stage fake Ukrainian acts of aggression in order to give themselves pretext for invading.
In this instance now, it has shifted promptly to talk of possible chemical attacks that may or may not take place… but, if they do, it’s going to be the Russians making it look like it was the Ukrainians…
Um… is everyone keeping up with this?
So, third… what it looks like they’re doing is setting up the narrative in advance: so that, whatever happens, it’ll look like a Russian act.
If anyone from the Ukrainian side (including the Neo Nazi groups) carries out a chemical attack, we’ll all supposed to think it’s the Russians framing them – because Victoria Nuland and co have laid it out for us already.
Which gives the Ukrainian side a complete green-light: and a good incentive for setting up a chemical incident so that the Western media can run with it and blame it on Russia. Now that we know the bio labs are there, we have to assume it wouldn’t be difficult to do something like that: actors on the Ukrainian side obviously have access to dangerous bio-materials.
In this past fortnight, there have already been indications of spurious ‘war crimes’ claims against the Russian forces appearing to be based on questionable or unreliable information from Ukrainian sources: the claims about Russia deliberately shelling schools, for example, or a maternity hospital.
In most such cases, Western media and Western officials are relying solely on Ukrainian state sources for their information: usually with little or no definitive photographic or video evidence for what actually happened.
Let’s look at how this works: so that we can see how the supposed ‘chemical attack’ prophecy would be played out later.
If we take the maternity hospital incident in Mariupol as an example, Zelinsky called it “genocide”: and the entire Western establishment, including every media organisation, ran with the story that Russia had deliberately targeted a maternity hospital and committed a ‘war crime’.
Russia, however, claimed the building has long since been abandoned as a hospital and was being used by the Azov Battalion as a firing position.
So, what version of the story makes more sense?
Firstly, why would the Russian military deliberately target a maternity hospital? It is literally a terrible thing to do for Russia’s PR – as well as strategically worthless. Secondly, the Ukrainian fighters have *very good* reason to take over that kind of building and use it as a base: so that when Russian forces attacked it, they could sell the story as a Russian war crime.
Also, I know this may be in poor taste to point out, but Zelinsky calling it a “genocide” is also yet another misuse of that word: three people apparently died in that attack – tragic though those deaths would be, that is not a ‘genocide’.
And we’ve seen Zelinsky and other Ukrainian officials increasingly calling for an escalation of Western/NATO involvement: calling for a no-fly zone, for example. And incidents that have already occurred, such as the incident at the Zapharozia nuclear facility, were being blown out of proportion by both Ukrainian officials and the Western media: in one statement, for example, Zelinsky warned the world that Russia’s shelling of the Zaphorozia facility was ‘the end of Europe’.
Likewise, international media was immediately running scare stories about ‘a new Chernobyl’ and potential nuclear fallout: in the end, of course, it was established that radiation levels had not changed even a little bit.
But all of this apocalyptic language and over-the-top coverage is deliberate, of course: part of an obvious propaganda campaign. And terms like ‘war crimes’ and ‘genocide’ have already been thrown about far too casually: again, for propaganda purposes and usually lacking in substantive evidence.
So imagine how much can be gotten out of a chemical or biological attack.
Using the same misinformation/propaganda dynamics that we’ve already been seeing (i.e: Russia deliberately targeted a maternity hospital), only now with a hypothetical chemical incident, would seem like both a good plan and the next logical step from a propaganda perspective.
More worryingly, in making the statements she made, Nuland almost seems to be giving her Ukrainian allies a signal to go ahead and do something along those lines.
As with the Mariupol maternity hospital, the obvious question should be asked though: who would benefit from a chemical or biological ‘incident’ in Ukraine?
Russia, which would face immediate condemnation around the world and probable war crimes charges? Or a Ukrainian faction… which would benefit from having Putin be seen to cross the ‘red line’ and become the ultimate monster?
Well, the answer is obvious.
Russian forces have no reason whatsoever to carry out a chemical attack in Ukraine: just as they have no reason to deliberately target a maternity hospital. They in fact have every reason not to. Anything of the sort would be an absolute PR disaster, both domestically and around the world.
It is patently obvious that the only party or parties with anything to gain from any such chemical attack would be Ukrainian operatives and/or their US/Western allies.
Now, based on Nuland and co’s statements, the next question would be: could Russia carry out a chemical attack and stage it to look like Ukrainian actors did it?
Well, maybe: but why would they do that, knowing that most of the world media is going to say Russia staged it? The Russian military is already in Ukraine, already engaged in conflict, and already the unquestionable villain of the equation as far most of the world is concerned – they don’t need pretexts anymore, other than those already laid out by Putin at the start of the campaign.
And, crucially, Russia doesn’t need access to these Ukrainian/US labs in order to obtain chemical weapons capabilities. It’s almost certain that Russia already *has* chemical weapons capabilities. Meaning that they could’ve carried out a chemical attack whenever they wanted, if that was their intention. And they could’ve framed the Ukrainian side for a chemical attack already, if they wanted: in fact, this would’ve been a *perfect* ‘false flag’ to act as pretext for the invasion to begin with.
None of that has happened.
But if this conflict in Ukraine goes on for long enough, and if the Ukrainian (and foreign) forces begin to do badly and get desperate, it is now very possible that a chemical incident of some description might occur: it certainly appears that we’re being set up for that by both US officials and the Western media establishment.
Its purpose would presumably be to incite global outrage and possibly even provide the pretext for NATO and Western forces to intervene militarily against Russia.
In an absolute worst-case scenario, a staged chemical attack could end up being the trigger for a major escalation towards a conflict that might eventually involve nuclear weapons.
Obviously, we’ve also seen these dynamics before: in Syria, where alleged chemical incidents – and accusations and counter-accusations – became commonplace. When I’ve said on multiple occasions that Ukraine was going to be set up to be Europe’s equivalent of war-torn Syria, even I wasn’t expecting it to become such a greatest hits medley so quickly.
That’s how it works. Does anyone remember when Jerusalem Online reported that “Syrian President Assad’s forces may be developing new types of chemical weapons, which which could reach as far as the US…”?
Interestingly, media commentary on the current possibility of a chemical attack in Ukraine is still insisting that all the accusations (of chemical attacks) against the Assad regime in Syria were true: and heavily implying that Putin and Russia were complicit in those events. And that in itself of course helps establish in the popular mindset the likelihood that Putin/Russia would use chemical weapons in Ukraine: because, of course, they supported the Syrian government’s use of such weapons on innocent civilians already.
We should remember, of course, that this fact (of Bashar al-Assad’s guilt) was never truly established. Those claims against the Syrian government remain unproven: with plenty of counter-evidence to suggest that the opposing side of the conflict may have staged the chemical incidents themselves – in order to elicit mass international outrage and trigger action against Damascus.
But this would seem to be the model that might be played out in Ukraine: if these latest statements are anything to go by.
Thankfully, in 2013 Barack Obama had the sense to go against the US foreign policy establishment and war-hungry media by *not* enforcing the ‘red line’ and carrying out regime change in Syria – despite the alleged chemical attacks that had supposedly been carried out by Assad’s forces.
In the current Russia/Ukraine scenario, it isn’t clear what the ‘red line’ is for the West or if there even is one. But one would imagine that a chemical attack on civilians in Ukraine would be the closest thing.
And, based on what’s been said in the last few days, I get the strong sense that Ukrainian actors have just been given the green light to go ahead and make something like that happen.
As for the issue of the bio labs in Ukraine: they clearly exist.
The question is what kind of work has been going on in these facilities. It could all be entirely innocent research and activities, in keeping with standard practises and international agreements. As yet, Russia has given us no definitive proof that anything sinister or criminal has gone on in any of these locations: there are only claims and counter-claims.
However, in this age of COVID pandemics, ‘gain-of-function’ research, and the kinds of questions that still need to be asked about the Wuhan bio lab in China (and even Fort Detrick in Maryland), it’s not just the Russian military that has cause to be suspicious.