On March 10, the Russian state news agency Sputnik published an article claiming the U.S. had developed biological weapons in Ukraine that could target specific ethnic groups.
The article quoted Igor Kirillov, head of the Russian military’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Protection Troops, as stating:
"The available documents confirm numerous cases of the transfer of biological samples of Ukrainian citizens abroad. With a high degree of probability, we can say that one of the tasks of the United States and its allies is the creation of bioagents that can selectively affect various ethnic groups of the population."
That same day, @ASBMilitary, a now-suspended Twitter account that had over 200,000 followers and a reputation for posting pro-Kremlin content about the war, tweeted the same claim, stating that the intent must be to target “Slavic DNA.”
Both claims are false.
Russian claims about biological weapons laboratories and research in Ukraine have been repeatedly debunked. Polygraph.info has dealt with this topic on many occasions, long before the most recent Russian escalation of the war in Ukraine.
But the new twist is that the U.S.-Ukraine research aims at specific ethnic groups based on DNA, a concept that is irrational on its face since Ukrainians, along with Russians, Poles and many others in that part of the world, are all Slavic people.
So where did the idea come from? We’re not sure, although pop culture is suspect.
Last year, the James Bond movie “No Time to Die” featured a plot about an artificial virus that could be tailored to target individuals or ethnic groups.
In the video game world, the best-selling “Metal Gear Solid” series, which began in 1998, also features a virus designed to target certain DNA.
It’s hard to know for certain what inspired the claims attributed to Kirillov, but as Polygraph.info has covered in earlier fact checks, the U.S. does not operate biological laboratories in Ukraine and isn't developing bioweapons, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials and other fact-checking sites.
Rather, the U.S. has worked with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to prevent and control the outbreak of dangerous pathogens, a function of biolabs around the world. Moreover, the United States’ Biological Thread Reduction Program is no secret. It has been around for over 30 years as part of the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
The first country to request the assistance of the CTRP with biological weapons was Russia in 1998. The program assisted mainly in the destruction of Soviet-era biological weapons in the former Soviet space. There is no way this could not be known to Russia. The subordinate organization, BTRP, continues its work in many countries in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
Robert Pope, head of the CTRP, had expressed concern that samples of pathogens stored in Ukrainian labs could leak if they come under attack by Russian forces. Recently the World Health Organization confirmed that it had sent instructions to labs in Ukraine to destroy any samples of dangerous pathogens to prevent them from potentially leaking due to the war.
Besides Polygraph.info, multiple other outlets, such as the BBC and Washington Post, have fact-checked and debunked Russia’s baseless claims about bio-weapons labs in Ukraine. Newsweek ran a piece likening the claims about bio-weapons designed to target specific ethnic groups to "science fiction."