Why nobody believes the Kremlin’s bioweapons claims

The Kremlin continues pushing false claims and disinformation about biological weapons labs in Ukraine even after numerous experts, including scientists from Russia, called the assertions “obviously false.”

Among Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s most outlandish claims: Ukraine houses U.S.-supported biological weapons labs. In some tellings, migratory birds, even mosquitos, threaten to unleash biological weapons on Russia.

Putin has used these and other false narratives as pretext for his unjustifiable war.

Hundreds of Russian scientists, including many who remain in Russia, have called the biological weapons lab claims “pure fiction” and the evidence Russia’s media outlets have offered to support it “obviously false.”

“We demand that the false, absolutely groundless and hatred-inciting statements about allegedly found evidence of the development of biological weapons in Ukrainian laboratories be stopped,” Russian biologist Eugene Lewitin said in a letter co-signed by hundreds of Russian scientists and sent to Russian media outlets soon after the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Consistently refuted

The Kremlin and its ministers have repeatedly raised their false biological weapons lab claims to the U.N. Security Council. The U.N. always refutes these claims.

“The United Nations is not aware of any such biological weapons programmes,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said March 11, 2022. U.N. officials said that again in May 2022 and again in October 2022.

The European Union lists the biological weapons lab claim among 12 myths the Kremlin spread in “a constant flow of disinformation” to pave the way for its February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Other myths include:

  • All of Europe supported Nazi Germany’s invasion of Russia in World War II.
  • Russia’s military is fighting a holy war against Satanists in Ukraine.
  • Ukraine is not a real country.

“Pro-Kremlin disinformation seeks to blur the line between biological weapons and biological research, instilling fear while discrediting Ukraine,” the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm, says on its website, EU vs. Disinfo.

“Moscow continues to push false information about biological weapons, without providing any credible evidence,” the State Department’s Global Engagement Center said in a new report.

Peaceful research

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and international partners worked to reduce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threats left behind in Soviet successor states, including Russia.

Those efforts worked to eliminate poorly secured weapons material, in line with international agreements, to prevent them from posing a serious threat to international security.

Today the United States works with international partners through peaceful international cooperation and assistance to enhance capacity to detect, prepare for, and respond to disease outbreaks and other biological threats.

Meanwhile, Putin’s war has risked release of dangerous material in Ukraine. In February 2022, Kremlin forces captured Chornobyl, site of an April 1986 nuclear disaster, and took hostage Ukrainian National Guard members and staff who run the facility that still handles spent fuel and other radioactive material.

According to the Bioweapons Disinformation Monitor, the Kremlin’s continued complaints to the U.N. of biological weapons labs attempt to distract attention from its unprovoked invasion and risk undermining essential public health research.

“On the basis of Russian evidence presented so far, neither the United Nations, independent media nor independent experts have concluded that there is any indication that Ukraine’s biological activities and its public health labs support anything other than peaceful purposes,” says the Bioweapons Disinformation Monitor, a partnership of King’s College London and the government of Canada.