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Heated discussion held during UNSC meeting over possibility of biochemical weapons

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(Last Updated On: March 14, 2022)

Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Friday warned Russia’s claim that the US is funding “military biological activities” in Ukraine could be a pretext for Moscow launching its own biological weapons attack on Ukraine.

Thomas-Greenfield made the comments during a UN Security Council meeting that had been called at Russia’s request to discuss Moscow’s claims that Ukraine is secretly developing biological weapons with the help of the US.

As reported by the Guardian, the event saw some heated discussion.

The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, evoked the terrifying specter of an “uncontrolled spread of bio agents from Ukraine” across Europe, but Thomas-Greenfield responded that Russia’s claim could be a pretext for launching its own biological weapons attack on Ukraine.

This came after the Russian ministry of foreign affairs posted a tweet last Sunday accusing the US and Ukrainian governments of running a secret “military-biological programme” inside the war-ravaged country.

Moscow claimed that its invading forces had discovered evidence of an “emergency clean-up” to hide the programme.

Moscow went on to claim that it had found documents related to the secret US operation in laboratories in the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Poltava.

The Guardian reported that these allegations were quickly amplified by China, which supported the claims during Friday’s UN security council debate.

However, both the US and Ukraine have denied that they are developing any biological weapons inside the country.

At Friday’s meeting, Thomas-Greenfield, said: “I will say this once: ‘Ukraine does not have a biological weapons program.’” She went on to turn the accusation back on Moscow. “It is Russia that has long maintained a biological weapon program in violation of international law,” the Guardian reported.

The UN high commissioner for disarmament, Izumi Nakamitsu, confirmed that the UN was not aware of any biological weapons programmes in Ukraine.

However, the Guardian reported that Ukraine does operate biological laboratories which receive US funding.

The US undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland affirmed these facts in a Senate foreign relations committee hearing last week in which the Republican senator Marco Rubio asked her directly whether Ukraine had biological weapons, the Guardian reported.

Nuland did not answer the question directly but said: “Ukraine has biological research facilities.”

She also said there was concern that Russian forces were trying to gain control of the labs. “We are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces.”

According to the Guardian, US funding to the laboratories had its roots in the fall of the Soviet Union after which money was pumped into Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to help them transfer scientific skills away from weapons programs towards public health initiatives.

The scheme was originally known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, but is now more commonly referred to as the biological engagement program. It has been successful in supporting former Soviet and other countries to fulfil public health obligations, the Guardian reported.

“This is one of the best things that we do,” Dr Gigi Gronvall, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Guardian.

Most of the work of the Ukraine labs today, Gronvall said, involved surveillance of diseases in animals and people as an early-warning system for illnesses such as African swine fever, which is endemic in the region. “We know pathogens don’t respect borders, so helping to put out public health fires before they become too big is an advantage to all of us,” she said.

However, the Guardian reported that as part of their work researching diseases the bio labs do seem to hold dangerous pathogens.

According to the report, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging Ukraine to destroy any highly dangerous agents in its laboratories to avoid the risk of a disastrous outbreak should one of the labs come under Russian attack.

“As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the ministry of health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills,” the UN health agency said.

The WHO has worked in Ukraine for several years helping the bio labs improve their safety and security, so it knows what it is talking about, the Guardian reported.

However, the report stated that in addition to the threat of pathogens held in Ukrainian labs leaking out or falling into the hands of Russian forces, there is the threat of Russia potentially launching its own biological weapons attack.

The assessment of the US state department is that Russia continues to maintain an offensive biological weapons programme in violation of the convention that it has signed.

Earlier this week, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, accused Russia under Vladimir Putin of having a “long and well-documented track record” of using chemical weapons, pointing to the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Russia’s support of the Syrian regime while it deployed chemical weapons.

She went on to warn that Moscow’s claim of a secret biological weapons programme in Ukraine could in fact be laying the foundations for a Russian chemical or biological weapons assault inside Ukraine, the Guardian reported.

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Ukraine celebrates recapturing key town, Putin ally raises nuclear jitters

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(Last Updated On: October 2, 2022)

Ukrainian troops said they had retaken the key bastion of Lyman in occupied eastern Ukraine, a stinging defeat that prompted a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for the possible use of low-grade nuclear weapons.

The capture on Saturday came just a day after Putin proclaimed the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located – and placed the regions under Russia’s nuclear umbrella. Kyiv and the West condemned the ornate ceremony as an illegitimate farce, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian soldiers announced the capture in a video recorded outside the town council building in the centre of Lyman and posted on social media.

“Dear Ukrainians – today the armed forces of Ukraine … liberated and took control of the settlement of Lyman, Donetsk region,” one of the soldiers says. At the end of the video, a group of soldiers cheer and throw Russian flags down from the building’s roof and raise a Ukrainian flag in their place.

Hours earlier, Russia’s defence ministry had announced it was pulling troops out of the area “in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement”.

Lyman had fallen in May to Russian forces, which had used it as a logistics and transport hub for its operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Its capture is Ukraine’s biggest battlefield gain since the lightning counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region last month.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised more quick successes in the Donbas, which covers the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are largely under Russian control.

“Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in Donbas has increased. There will be even more a week’s time,” he said in an evening video address.

Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement on Sunday morning that its jets had carried out 29 strikes in the past 24 hours, destroying weapons and anti-aircraft missile systems, while ground troops had hit command posts, warehouses containing ammunition and anti-aircraft missile complexes.

Russian forces launched four missiles and 16 air strikes and used Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones to attack infrastructure, Ukraine’s statement said, adding more than 30 settlements were damaged, chiefly in the south and southeast.

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G7 ministers threaten “economic costs on Russia” over Ukrainian annexation

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(Last Updated On: October 1, 2022)

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries condemned Russia’s proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday as a “new low point” in the war and vowed to take further action against Moscow, Reuters reported.

“We will never recognise these purported annexations, nor the sham ‘referenda’ conducted at gunpoint,” said a statement from the top diplomats of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

“We will impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities – inside and outside of Russia – that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law,” it added.

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Attacks against NATO allies critical infrastructure to be met with determined response: NATO

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(Last Updated On: September 30, 2022)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that a deliberate attack against allies’ infrastructure would be met with a determined response, following what it called acts of “sabotage” on the Nord Stream pipelines, Reuters reported.

“All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” NATO said in a statement.

“We, as Allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors. Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response,” it said.

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