TBILISI, May 28. /TASS/. Georgian prime minister’s special envoy for settling relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze has announced that he is ready to discuss issuing permits for Russian experts to visit Georgia’s Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research with member of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament), Russian envoy to talks with Georgia Grigory Karasin.
"We have repeatedly said that Georgia, being a responsible signatory to the UN Biological Weapons Convention, is ready to welcome Russian experts in [Richard] Lugar laboratory, however, they must be people who have clearance to the relevant lab infrastructure," he told TASS Thursday.
"We are ready to welcome experts within the convention mechanisms’ framework and not on the bilateral level. Of course, if he [Karasin — TASS] is going to ask questions regarding this topic, I am ready to discuss it with him and reiterate that we are ready to receive experts in the laboratory," he added.
Abashidze noted that the specific date for the meeting with Karasin is not determined yet. It is preliminarily scheduled for July-August. "Our meeting depends on the coronavirus pandemic," the special envoy concluded.
On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a comment, saying that Russian specialists should have access to all facilities of the Richard Lugar Center when visiting the lab.
The Russian diplomatic agency noted that the mechanism of ‘voluntary assessment visits’ to microbiology labs of dual purpose advanced by certain western countries has nothing to do with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.·
Richard Lugar Center
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 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.