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MP slams Pentagon explanation on harvesting Russians’ biomarkers as ‘fairy tale’

November 02, 2017, 14:11 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Pentagon explained that the samples were collected for research on the musculoskeletal system

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© Sergey Bobylev/TASS

MOSCOW, November 2. /TASS/. The Pentagon’s clarification on collecting genetic material from Russian citizens is "an awkward and ill-conceived legend" concealing the true goals of boosting the United States’ military and biological potential, Russian lawmaker and former chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko said in an interview with TASS.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the Council for Human Rights that foreigners are harvesting the biological material of Russians. The material belongs to different ethnic groups and people who reside in different geographic parts of Russia, he said. Putin said that such activity was being conducted "purposefully and professionally."

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov later explained that Putin received information about this from the nation’s intelligence services. It is true that some emissaries - representatives of NGOs and other entities - conduct such activity, Peskov said, adding "such incidents have been put on record and the special services, and naturally the president, do have such information."

The Pentagon explained that the samples were collected for research on the musculoskeletal system.

"The Americans churned out fairy tales that they are studying diseases of the joints, and certainly, this is an ill-conceived and awkward legend," said Onischenko, who is First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Education and Science Committee.

According to the lawmaker, when collecting Russians’ biomarkers, the US covers up its secret operation by concocting a legend to hide its true goals. "If those individuals had blurted out the truth, they would have shot them dead," he stressed.

So by doing this, the US is violating the international law, Onischenko said, recalling that the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was adopted in 1972 at the initiative of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. "The US has never stopped doing this and continues to step up its military and biological potential. Although they ratified (the Convention), they do not give a damn about it," the politician stressed.

Washington has always collected biomarkers, he said. "They did this before and now all the more so, since the human genome has been decoded and today’s synthetic biology makes it possible to significantly meddle with the genetic code and predict certain diseases that particular individuals or ethnic groups are prone to."

Onischenko is sure that consequently the means for attacking and destabilizing political situation or the country’s economy and even harming human health are being developed. "So, these are offensive biological programs banned under the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention," the politician pointed out.

Time for Russia to get tough on foreign labs

The lawmaker has called for tightening control over the activity of foreign microbiology research laboratories, which were established in Russia in the 1990s. "We allowed them into our market and today they are running the show. And this poses a great risk today," he warned.

These companies should be withdrawn from the Russian market, but this should be done step-by-step since they often offer unique services, Onischenko added. "If this cannot be done, then the most stringent controls (over their activity) should be put in place. These are foreign companies that have full access to everything - not only do they take blood (samples), but they also can take spinal cords (samples)."

"There are companies that test drugs. We need to come to grips with the fact that they may be carrying out aims, quite possibly, of military agencies," Onischenko said.

The lawmaker noted that these biomarkers taken in Russia must not be taken outside the country, warning that this creates certain risks. "I have always said about this: whatever happens, strict control must be ensured."

Meanwhile, Onischenko noted that particular Russian citizens should not be afraid as these studies focus on the ethnic peculiarities of Slavic and other peoples to get "a biological passport." He also advised Russians not to use the services of laboratories with foreign capital.

Today’s biological technologies can even concern the lives of political figures, he stressed. "This is a vital issue, if this concerns politicians, as individual (bio)terror is not ruled out and it would always be ‘valuable’ to learn the biological details of the head of state or the head of a large company."

Onischenko recalled that the Russian president ordered to draw up a law on biosecurity in 2012. In December 2017, the government should submit the bill, authored by the Health Ministry, to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

The law will include requirements for the quality of food and water, vaccines, modern methods of diagnosing diseases and microorganisms. "And certainly, issues linked to the deliberate use of achievements in synthetic biology and biotechnologies, and microcosms for solving military, political and economic tasks.

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