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MOSCOW, September 24 (Itar-Tass) - Operations of a U.S.-funded microbiological laboratory in Georgia pose a threat to Russia’s biological security and affect “the positive development” of trade ties between the two neigbours, Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief public health official and head of the consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor, told Itar-Tass.
Work of the Richard G Lugar Center for Public Health Research on Georgian territory seriously hampered establishment of trust with Georgia, which is “essential for further cooperation and prevention of unexpected and unfavourable decisions”, Onishchenko said.
This was despite the Russian agency's having noted with satisfaction the positive development of relations with Georgia and resumption of economic ties after shipments of Georgian wine and mineral water into Russia resumed in the spring after seven years of embargo, the official said.
“Neither Georgian authorities nor specialists know exactly the real aims pursued by the U.S. Defense Ministry while building and equipping the laboratory,” Onishchenko said. “The aims and the purpose of this laboratory do not correspond with Russia’s interests.”
Onishchenko called it “unserious and disrespectful” of the Georgian National Wine Agency to invite Russian experts to examine the laboratory, which was not under Georgian authorities’ control and which the official has blamed for an outbreak of African swine flu among Russian cattle in 2007.
The decision to create the centre was taken in 2004 during the visit of former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar to Georgia. The centre started operations in 2011, funded by a 150 million-dollar investment.