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Moscow plans to coordinate access of its specialists to Lugar center in Georgia

Moscow is concerned about the absence of information on the activity of the laboratory, the Russian Foreign Ministry said

MOSCOW, May 26./TASS/. Russia expects a response from Georgia to its request to visit the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Tbilisi by Russian specialists. Moscow is concerned about the absence of information on the activity of the laboratory, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary on Tuesday.

Attempts fail to organize a visit of the center in Georgia "by Russian subject matter experts on mutually acceptable conditions," it said. "The Georgian side has not reacted as of yet to our note of June 2019 with a request to give necessary explanations on the modalities of a possible visit. We are waiting for an official reaction from Tbilisi," it said.

"The matter of our concern is that Washington does not explain what it is doing in close vicinity to the Russian borders. Of course, we cannot but factor this in within the context of ensuring national security, specifically when such sensitive aspects are involved," the Foreign Ministry explained.

Russia will continue attempts to get intelligible answers from the American and Georgian sides as to the activity of the lab, it stressed.

Russia insists on "guarantees of access to all laboratory buildings," including the premises occupied by US specialists. This will make it possible to check the activity of the center and impossible to conceal "the true focus of the work carried out by biologists from the US military agency close to the Russian borders," it stressed.

"We go on a premise that the visit must take place in a bilateral format without representatives from other counties (except for Pentagon specialists accredited at the center), as well as international and regional organizations," the Foreign Ministry said.

It also stressed that the activity of the laboratories invited questions of Russian officials and public figures, as well as Georgian experts and representatives of the civic society from the point of view of observance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention by US specialists. "It was noted, in particular, that research is being carried out on the basis of this biological facility to use insects for carrying specifically dangerous biological and infectious agents," the ministry explained.

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.