Russia may be preparing to “use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” after Moscow falsely claimed the United States is developing illegal chemical weapons in the country, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Psaki made the remarks in a series of tweets on Wednesday after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this week accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons labs funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Zakharova provided no evidence to back up her claims.
The claim is “preposterous,” said Psaki, and “the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that it had received documents that showed the Ukrainian Ministry of Health “sent an instruction to all biological laboratories” on Feb. 24 to urgently destroy the “stored stocks of dangerous pathogens,” including plague, anthrax, tularemia, and cholera.
In a separate statement on March 7, the Russian ministry claimed that Ukraine “has united a chain of more than 30 biological laboratories” ordered by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense.
Such allegations from Russia were being aired on state-run media weeks prior to its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
It is “an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent,” Psaki said.
“This is all an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify its further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine,” Psaki wrote. “Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them.”
The U.S. State Department separately issued a statement on Wednesday calling Russia’s claims “disinformation” and “total nonsense.”
“Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating,” spokesperson Ned Price said. “These tactics are an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attacks on Ukraine. We fully expect Russia to continue to double down on these sorts of claims with further unfounded allegations.”
The allegations have also been echoed by Chinese officials, Psaki noted.
“The United States is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere,” she added.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.