MOSCOW, May 27. /TASS/. Tbilisi has not officially confirmed the intention to welcome Russian experts to study the operations of Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research extended by the Georgian Foreign Ministry, member of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament), Russian envoy to talks with Georgia Grigory Karasin told TASS Wednesday.
"There is always official exchange between states in the form of verbal notes or letters, appeals which are formulated in official letters and sent to the other side in hopes for a certain reaction. In fact, we are yet to receive any reaction to our latest request," he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced readiness to invite Russian experts to inspect the activities of the research center but only within the jurisdiction of the UN Biological Weapons Convention mechanisms. "Being a responsible member of the UN Biological Weapons Convention, Georgia was ready in the past and will be ready in the future to welcome relevant Russian experts with access to laboratory infrastructure of corresponding security level. However, this visit can only take place in accordance with the convention mechanisms," the statement reads, underlining that the Russian experts will not be invited separately. Moreover, the diplomatic agency also said that the laboratory is fully owned by Georgia and rejected the idea that its US partners play any roles or carry out any functions in the center. "Moreover, they cannot perform any research independently," the ministry stressed.
The Russian senator recalled that Moscow officially submitted a request to visit Richard Lugar laboratory back in June 2019 but "still has not received any clear answer regarding this rather crucial and sensitive issue, especially considering what is happening now in the world." "Therefore, we continue discussing this topic and will hope that the Georgian side will be considerate to the concerns all its neighbors, including Russia, have in view of this," Karasin explained.
He added that a personal meeting with Georgian prime minister’s special envoy for settling relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze can possibly be held in summer. "I would like to meet in person. Video conference is no substitute to a face-to-face meeting, but we maintain contact by phone quite regularly and discuss the most relevant topics. I still hope that the meeting will be more possible in July-August," the Russian senator pointed out.
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 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.