Is Russia destroying US military-run biolabs in Ukraine?

We came across these messages on two separate Telegram groups:

The author of the messages in the first screenshot claims that Russia is “destroying US biolabs” and at the same time, “liberating Ukraine from the cabal”. The message in the second screenshot’s comment comes in response to a thread on Russian President Vladimir Putin, where other Telegram users have called Putin’s “crusade […] the only credible military force against the cabal”, and that he is actually “trying to minimise casualties”.

The word ‘cabal’ appears to be peppered in several threads in the groups, and we found it used in conversations which also talked about the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy theory, and how there is a ‘Great Reset’ happening – a strategy by the “global elite, who somehow planned and managed the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Distortion of facts once again?

When we did a Google search of the terms ‘ukraine biolabs’, we see several websites (both factchecking and non-factchecking sites) addressing the claims of US-run biolabs in Ukraine.

The sites also shared an image that was being circulated on social media platforms:

In the image, we see a map of Ukraine and certain areas being marked out. These areas are allegedly “exclusive US biolabs” financed by the “US Department of Defense”.

Another viral social media post claims that missile strikes from Russia had led to “7 of 11 pentagon (sic) biolabs destroyed in Ukraine”.

As pointed out by Snopes, these claims have been distorted from something that is actually fact – that the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the Department of Defense of the United States of America entered into an agreement in 2005. This was when former US President George W. Bush was in office, and was reportedly to “stem the threat of bio-terrorism by placing safeguards on deadly pathogens dating from a Soviet-era biological weapons program”.

In a factcheck by PolitiFact, Andy Weber, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said that there are no US military-run labs in Ukraine, but rather, it is “the US Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program [that] has provided technical support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public health laboratories”. He added that these labs had even “recently played an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19”.

It also seems like the claims about US-run biolabs in Ukraine aren’t new.

For example, in 2020, the Kyiv Post reported that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had stated in a Facebook post that there had been “‘fake news’ about the alleged activities of American military biological laboratories in Ukraine [being] spread in the media and social networks”.

SBU clarified that “no foreign biological laboratories operate in Ukraine”, and that the 2005 Agreement simply included the modernisation (repair work, updating of equipment, purchasing of supplies) of “a number of state laboratories located in Odesa, Kharkiv, Lviv, Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk regions”.

The SBU also emphasised that these laboratories are “financed from the state budget, are subordinate to the Ministry of Health and the state service on food safety and consumer protection”, and that “cooperation between Ukraine and the United States on countering biological terrorism takes place exclusively within the framework of Ukrainian legislation and in the interests of Ukraine”.

Therefore, while it is true that there was indeed a treaty signed in 2005 between the US and Ukraine which aimed to stem the threat of bio-terrorism, it is false that these labs are run by the US military.

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