The United States is working to prevent Russia from taking control of Ukraine's "biological research facilities," according to a U.S. official.
"Ukraine has biological research facilities, which in fact we are now quite concerned that Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of, so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces, should they approach," Nuland said.
Rubio said: "I'm sure you're aware that the Russian propaganda groups are already putting all kinds of information about how they've uncovered a plot by Ukrainians to release biological weapons in the country and with NATO's coordination.
"If there's a bio or chemical weapon incident or attack inside Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that 100 percent it would be the Russians that would be behind it?"
Nuland replied: "There is no doubt in my mind, senator."
"It is a classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they're planning to do themselves."
Russian AccusationsThe Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement on Telegram accusing Ukraine of having destroyed pathogens being studied at a lab in Ukraine that the ministry says is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The statement says that the Russian ministry 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.
“Such Russian claims have been debunked conclusively and repeatedly over many years," the spokesperson said. "As we’ve said all along, Russia will invent false pretexts to justify their horrific actions in Ukraine."
US, Ukraine Say Labs Seek to Prevent Bioweapons; Documents Say Pentagon is 'Donor' of LabsThe DTRA previously said in a video posted in January that a program it runs—the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program—"does not develop biological weapons."
In the same video, Chris Park, a State Department official, told the U.N. that Russia's and China's allegations of "suspicious activity" at laboratories in Ukraine is "pure disinformation."
The program also works "to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats," according to the statement. "Our joint efforts help to ensure that dangerous pathogens do not fall into the wrong hands," it reads.
Fact sheets for the other 10 laboratories have similar paragraphs.
The Pentagon didn't respond to a request for comment by press time.
The CTR Program was started shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. One of its goals was to reduce the threat of existing weapons of mass destruction programs in the former Soviet Republics.
"Since 1993 there is an agreement to provide assistance to our state in eliminating strategic nuclear weapons and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. One of [the] points is the timely detection and prevention of outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens," the post reads.
Within the framework of the 2005 agreement, a number of state laboratories in the Ukrainian cities of Odessa, Kharkiv, Lviv, Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Kherson, and Dnipropetrovsk "have been upgraded" through certain repair projects or the updating of equipment, the SBU said.
There are "no foreign biological laboratories in Ukraine," the SBU also declared, adding that the laboratories involved are owned and funded by the Ukrainian government. "We emphasize that these laboratories are funded from the state budget subordinated to the Ministry of Health and the State Service of Ukraine on food safety and consumer protection."
Meanwhile, the 2005 document states that "the total cost to the U.S. Department of Defense of all material, training and services provided pursuant to this Agreement and the associated expenses shall be up to fifteen (15) million U.S. dollars." The document says the assistance from the Pentagon to Ukraine's Ministry of Health includes "cooperative biological research, biological threat agent detection and response, and improving biological material protection, control and accountability."