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Moscow mulls deal to make work of biological labs more transparent

Russia's deputy foreign minister said biological threats should be countered militarily if diplomatic instruments are useless
The Russian Foreign Ministry's office Valery Sharifulin/TASS
The Russian Foreign Ministry's office
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, June 26. /TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry is drafting a set of protocols to make the work of biological labs in neighboring countries more transparent, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday.

"We are working on an agreement, on protocols with our neighbors giving us a chance to achieve greater transparency, to look inside those labs that are being financed partly by the Pentagon," he said in the Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyev program on Rossiya-1 TV channel.

"If some unexplainable problems emerge, like, for example, an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Russian children who spent their vacation in Georgia last summer, we need to take a closer look. Tampering with the genome of this viral agent raises certain questions, at the very least," the diplomat added.

Ryabkov said the Russian Foreign Ministry does not rule out the anthropogenic factor in recent outbreaks of several viral diseases, such as the Zika virus and the Ebola fever.

He added that such threats should be countered militarily if diplomatic instruments prove to be useless.

"Before using this method of last resort, other solutions must be ruled out," he said, adding that Russia’s military doctrine authorizes the use of nuclear weapons "in case of aggression against Russia, committed with the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction." "Biological weapons are recognized as such," he added.

Russia has repeatedly expressed its concern over the work of the Georgia-based Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research. Opened near Tbilisi’s international airport in 2011 under a US governmental program, the center specializes in the study of biological threats. Georgia’s former State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze told reporters in late 2018 that he had evidence confirming that the lab was carrying out dangerous experiments and called on US President Donald Trump to investigate its activities. Giorgadze claimed that US military and private contractors could be engaged in secret experiments on humans there. Georgia dismissed these allegations as absurd while Moscow said it would request the lab-related documents from the United States.