Russia is getting a helping hand from China in spreading incendiary and baseless accusations that the US is funding biological weapons facilities in Ukraine as it increases its attack on the country.
The US has been quick to dismiss Russia’s conspiracy theory, and the UN has stated that it has received no evidence to support it, but that hasn’t prevented it from spreading.
The partnership between the two authoritarian countries, which said their ties had “no limits” just weeks ago, appears to be aimed at muddying the waters surrounding Russia’s invasion rationale in what American officials have dubbed a “information war,” which some fear could pave the way for a “false-flag” operation.
This week, China’s Foreign Ministry added gasoline to the fire by echoing the Russian accusation and pushing for a probe.
“This Russian military action has revealed the secret of the US labs in Ukraine, and this is not something that can be handled lightly,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.
“They won’t be able to get around it by claiming that China’s declaration and Russia’s findings are false, silly, and foolish.”
Indeed, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby dismissed Russia’s claim as “nonsense,” but CIA Director William Burns expressed grave concern to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that Russia was laying the groundwork for a chemical or biological attack of its own, which it would then blame on the US or Ukraine in a false flag operation.
“As you all know, this is something that is very much a part of Russia’s playbook,” he added. “They’ve used these weapons against their own population, or at the very least promoted their use in Syria and elsewhere, so we take it very seriously.”
Although Russia, China, and the United States have all signed international treaties prohibiting the use of chemical or biological weapons, the world community has concluded that Russia has employed chemical weapons in assassination attempts against President Vladimir Putin’s foes. Russia also backs Syria’s Assad regime, which has used chemical weapons on its own people throughout the country’s decade-long civil war.
Initially, Moscow claimed that its invading forces had discovered evidence of rushed attempts in Ukraine to conceal biological weapons development.
Igor Kirillov, the chief of the Russian military’s radiation, chemical, and biological defense forces, doubled down on Thursday, alleging that US-sponsored laboratories in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa were developing hazardous infections specifically targeted at Russians and other Slavs.
“One of the aims of the United States and its allies, we can say with a high probability, is the invention of bioagents capable of selectively infecting certain ethnic groups,” Kirillov added.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a similar accusation, claiming that US-directed laboratories in Ukraine were working on “ethnically tailored biological weapons.”
On Russia’s request, the United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday to consider Moscow’s assertion. The American delegation will not allow it to become “a place for propagating their falsehoods,” according to Olivia Dalton, a spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations.
China, on the other hand, has been aggressively publicizing the claim, with headlines on the state-run China Global Television Network’s website such as “Russia exposes proof of US-funded bio-program in Ukraine” and “China pushes US to divulge more data concerning biolabs in Ukraine.” “US seeks to dispute ‘rumors’ regarding its biolabs in Ukraine, but can we trust it?” read a report in the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper on Thursday.
On Sina Weibo, a prominent Chinese social media network similar to Twitter, a nearly three-minute video of a Russian Defense Ministry press conference reiterating the charges has been seen more than 10 million times and liked more than 90,000 times.
After years of anti-American rhetoric from Communist Party officials and the state-controlled media, many Chinese believe the United States cannot be trusted and that the West is on the fall as it attempts to restrict China’s growth.
In the United States, far-right groups and the media have taken up the allegation.
China is widely regarded as siding with Russia in the fight, most notably by refusing to characterize to it as a war or an invasion, as Moscow does. It has also sided with Russia on the conflict’s core causes, citing NATO’s eastward expansion and a reluctance to accept Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.”
Simultaneously, it is attempting to avoid totally aligning itself with Russia, as Belarus has done, by portraying itself as only a concerned third party.
China has voted nay on UN resolutions condemning Russia and has condemned economic penalties imposed on the country. Despite having limited experience in such a position and concerns about its neutrality, it has indicated support for peace negotiations and offered its services as a mediator.
Chinese officials have also stated that the US should not be entitled to criticize Russia’s conduct because the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses, claiming to have evidence that Saddam Hussein was accumulating weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that none were ever discovered.
China has also taken advantage of the opportunity to reiterate its claim that the United States created the virus that causes COVID-19 at a lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, which it first made in an apparent attempt to deflect American claims that the coronavirus originated in a research laboratory in Wuhan, China, as made by then-US President Donald Trump and other senior American officials.
The likely source, according to two large studies reported this month, is a city’s animal market.
In answer to a query about what proof China has to back up Russia’s assertions, Zhao replied, “The world community has long been deeply worried about the United States’ biological warfare actions.” “What did the US conduct on its own soil at the Fort Detrick base?”
Russia isn’t the first country to broadcast false information regarding American biological weapons development.
During the Cold War in the 1980s, Russian intelligence circulated the rumor that the US had produced HIV, the AIDS-causing virus, in a lab. Russian official media has increasingly propagated conspiracy theories about harmful research being conducted in Ukraine and Georgia.
In this scenario, Russia has attempted to offset US retaliation by claiming that Ukraine, not Russia, is plotting a false flag strike.
Ukrainian “nationalists” have stored roughly 80 tons of ammonia in Zolochiv near Kharkiv, according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, in preparation for a future “provocation using hazardous substances to accuse Russia of chemical weapons use.”
The charge itself, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is alarming.
“That concerns me much because we have long been convinced that the best way to learn about Russia’s objectives is to look at what Russia accuses others of,” he said in his evening address to the nation on Thursday.
“I am a decent individual.” A decent country and sensible people’s president. “I’m a parent of two,” he explained. “On my territory, no chemical or other weapons of mass devastation have been created.” This is something that the entire world is aware of.”
Burns said the US policy in the present fight of declassifying and publicly exposing what is known about false narratives and suspected Russian false-flag operations has paid well so far, according to his statement before the Senate panel.
“I believe we have had a significant impact in upsetting their tactics and calculations, as well as revealing to the rest of the world that this is a calculated and unprovoked assault based on a body of falsehoods and false narratives,” Burns said.
“I believe Putin is losing this propaganda battle.”