11 March 2022

"This is a deliberate lie"

Expert – about the "creation of bioweapons" in Ukraine

Marina Aronova, Siberia.Realities

The community of graduates of the Moscow State University Biofac has distributed a post on Facebook, in which it demanded that a number of Russian pro-Kremlin media stop "false propaganda based on disinformation and hatred." We are talking about the publications of these media outlets, which claim that biological weapons were being developed in Ukraine.

On March 6, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation published documents that allegedly prove that biological weapons were created in Ukraine. The official representative of the department, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said that on February 24, pathogens of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera and other deadly diseases were urgently destroyed in Poltava and Kharkiv laboratories.

After that, dozens of reports appeared in the pro-government media that Ukrainian biolabs carried out orders from the Pentagon. On March 9, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, said that "it will certainly be interesting for the whole world to understand and find out what these institutions were doing."

On March 10, Igor Kirillov, head of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, said that biolabs in Lviv worked with pathogens of plague, anthrax and brucellosis, in Kharkov and Poltava – with pathogens of diphtheria, salmonellosis and dysentery.

As Kirillov clarified, more than 320 containers were destroyed in Lviv: 232 containers with the causative agent of leptospirosis, 30 – with tularemia, 10 – with brucellosis, 5 – with plague. "The nomenclature and the excessive number of biopathogens indicate the work carried out within the framework of military biological programs," he stressed.

In response, the community of graduates of the Moscow State University Biofac distributed a post on Facebook that analyzes the accusations of representatives of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Its author Evgeny Levitin, candidate of biological Sciences, microbiologist, genetic engineer and molecular biologist, told why he demanded to refute the statements made by Russian officials.

– Why did you write an open letter to the editorial office of RIA Novosti, Gazeta.<url>, Russia Today, Fontanka, Komsomolskaya Pravda and other media outlets that published reports that Ukraine allegedly urgently eliminated traces of a biological weapons program funded by the Pentagon?

– Because they wrote a pure lie. This is a deliberate lie, which is not justified in any way. This will become obvious to any person who will take the trouble to just carefully read the documents attached to the statement about the creation of biological weapons in Ukraine.

I'll explain with a simple example. Imagine: you come to an office and see an inscription on one of the rooms – "Instructions for a cleaner. wet cleaning of the premises 2 times a day. " From this you conclude that in this room, Ukrainian nationalists dismember people alive twice a day and sacrifice them to Cthulhu, and then wash their tracks. The statement of the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation Igor Konashenkov in combination with the documents attached to this statement makes exactly this impression.

– But why? In the documents on the elimination of dangerous pathogens in Ukrainian laboratories there is a long list of pathogens…

– Compare it with the list of so-called particularly dangerous infections. There is nothing like this in the published list of drugs disposed of in Poltava and Kharkiv laboratories. Let's figure out which pathogens are listed in it. Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a potentially dangerous but completely unsuitable strain of the causative agent of diphtheria. It is very difficult to get infected with diphtheria until a spoonful of this culture is poured down your throat – that's when you will feel bad. Corynebacterium pseudodiphteriticum are bacteria that are part of the normal microflora of the upper respiratory tract and human skin. This is a purely conditional pathogen. It can harm human health only in conditions of immune deficiency. Corynebacterium xerosis is something that can potentially cause inflammation of the mucous membranes in some people. The thing, of course, is quite unpleasant, but it is treated with a special cream. Bacillus lihenifprmus "C" is a strain that you deal with all the time. It can be found anywhere, even in yesterday's borscht. Bacillus stearothermophilis may be considered a conditional pathogen, but again, this bacillus needs to be swallowed a lot, and even in a person with immunodeficiency it will not cause dangerous diseases. Staphilococcus aureus is also the most common thing, which can be infected simply from the air. If you leave a cup on the table, then every hundredth colony of bacteria that forms there is Staphylococcus aureus. Yes, it happens that yellow plaques grow on a person's throat because of it, but it's not staphylococcus that's to blame, but the state of the body. Escherichia coli – we all have this E. coli in our intestines. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Pseudomonas aeruginosa that lives in water and soil, it is conditionally pathogenic to humans. Klebsiella pneumoniae is also a conditional pathogen.

All that is listed in the published documents are conditional pathogens, with the exception of Clostridium diphtheriae. But this pathogen does not belong to the group of particularly dangerous pathogens.

– Then why were these strains stored in Ukrainian laboratories?

– They are used in any epidemiological institute, in any microbiological laboratory, even in any sanitary and epidemiological station where samples are sown. These strains are needed for comparison. Here comes a man, takes a swab from the throat, experts do the sowing and see what is wrong with him there develops. The strains grown on the cup need to be compared with something. Therefore, samples are available in any normal laboratory that deals with epidemiology or even just microbiology.

In order to store such strains, you do not even need a special permit. These pathogens are not the subject of specially recorded storage. You just need to fill out a special form confirming that they exist. This is a common practice.

– If these are the most common strains that are widely used, then why did the Ukrainian biolabs urgently destroy them on February 24, as stated Konashenkov?

– Because this is also a common practice. Periodically – every six months, for example – the epidemiological institute is registered, and some of the crops that are not needed for further work are disposed of. That is, they are carefully destroyed by various methods of disinfection. Moreover, even the most innocent strains are disposed of in this way, because they should not be thrown into the trash.

It's the same situation here. Epidemiological laboratories, which do not even have permission to work with particularly dangerous infections, disposed of cultures of potentially harmful bacteria. They fulfilled the order of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine dated February 24, 2022 on the disposal of pathogens in a state of emergency. The goal is to prevent all sorts of accidents that could lead to the ingress of biocultures into the external environment. This is a reasonable decision.

– It turns out that strains that are not particularly dangerous were destroyed. Why, then, did General Konashenkov declare the destruction of the causative agents of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera and other deadly diseases?

– This is a complete lie, in its purest form. Plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera – all this is not in the published documents. The calculation is simply that people do not read either Ukrainian or Latin and do not know the names of pathogens.

This is how propaganda works. The Defense Ministry made a false, unfounded statement – and now, if I talk to people, 90% of them will say: "Biological weapons were made in Ukraine." No one has read the attached documents. And those who have read it will say: "Well, yes, maybe there are no dangerous pathogens in these documents. But it's not for nothing that they tell us about it. Maybe there are dangerous strains in other documents that cannot be published openly." This kind of reaction is also possible.

All this is propaganda in its pure, distilled form. A lie without any foundation.

– Can it happen that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation will later really detect pathogens of plague, anthrax or cholera in Ukrainian biological laboratories?

– Of course, there are probably laboratories in Ukraine that work with especially dangerous pathogens. And this is also normal. Hundreds of laboratories in Russia have an official permit to work with anthrax, for example.

I worked in France in a laboratory that was engaged in zooatology and studied parasites of domestic animals. And this ordinary veterinary laboratory also had a permit to work with particularly dangerous infections. To get it, the laboratory just needs to be properly equipped and correctly register dangerous strains. If specialists work with them, it does not mean that they are developing biological weapons.

If the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation finds in Ukraine the documents of laboratories that have an official permit to work with dangerous strains, this will also be nothing surprising and scary. But the military department did not bother to wait even for such a reason for propaganda. Maybe they didn't have time for that.

It seems to me that the statement on the development of biological weapons in Ukraine was prepared and agreed upon in advance. After all, immediately after the statement of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the official representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Liqian, spoke, who called on the United States to clarify its activities on biological militarization. The Chinese representative tried to fan the panic by saying that American biological laboratories work in Ukraine, for which the United States spends hundreds of millions of dollars, and these laboratories are clearly doing something wrong.

– Can it turn out that there really are laboratories in Ukraine that receive funding from the United States?

- of course. Because this is also a normal practice. The cost of labor in Ukraine is much less than in America. And if some American company needs to get a certain protein in order to immunize or increase biomass in order to study the effect of a certain substance on microbes, then it is ten times cheaper to do it in Ukraine than in America. Therefore, Americans probably use this outsourcing.

Similarly, American firms outsource some of the work to China, Vietnam or India. This was also common in Russia, until international cooperation began to be stifled in our country.

Laboratories that fulfill orders for foreign firms can be of various types, not only biological, but also chemical and geological. Science is generally global, it is not tied to any one country. If a biological laboratory in Ukraine works with money from the United States, this does not mean that it is developing biological weapons.

In addition, it is unlikely that there are laboratories in Ukraine that fully work not for private firms, but for such US government agencies as the National Institutes of Health. Ukraine has been a poor country for too long, and there are few specialists left who could carry out such serious orders as the development of biological weapons. Most of them, unfortunately, have already left. A good specialist will prefer to work in America for dollars, and not in Ukraine for hryvnia. Actually, the situation is the same in Russia.

– In many Russian media, the topic is being exaggerated that the US authorities were developing not just biological weapons in Ukrainian laboratories, but weapons specifically against the Slavs. That they studied Slavic DNA…

– The statement about the "Slavic DNA" is just nonsense for anyone who remembers a school biology course. Such statements go back to the theories of the German National Socialists with their cult of the "Aryan superior race". The fact is that there are no peoples as genetic communities at all. This is a common place for all biologists for about 150 years. And there is no such people as the Slavs, either.

Slavic languages began to spread very rapidly in the 5th-6th centuries AD. The ancestors of modern Bulgarians went south and conquered the Thracian population. The ancestors of modern Russians went north and conquered territories inhabited by Finno-Ugric peoples. The Western Slavs assimilated the Celtic population that lived in Europe. The local population has not changed genetically, it has simply assimilated the language and culture of the aliens. In the process of assimilation, there was a mixture of bloodlines. And this is only one stage, but there was also the great migration of peoples, the Tatar-Mongol conquest, etc., etc.

To see how large-scale the mixing of bloodlines was, it is enough to study the genetic map of the world. The share of Slavic genes is not only among Finns or Poles, but also among the Chinese. And there is simply no such genetic community as Slavs, and even more so Russians or Ukrainians. It is impossible to even somehow designate it. Russians and Ukrainians are like two salads made from the same ingredients. There are more components in one, and others in the other. Moreover, residents of Rostov-on-Don and Kharkiv will have more in common than a native of a Karelian village and a Siberian.

All nations are a mess of very different genes. And there is no special DNA of the Slavs.

Studying Slavic DNA in order to create biological weapons against the Slavs is also complete nonsense. Even if it were possible to develop such a bioweapon – and this is not possible in the near future – it would not be possible to successfully apply it. Anyone who wanted to kill a third of Russians with it would have destroyed at least a quarter of the population of their country.

– If we take the most geographically remote peoples – for example, the inhabitants of Central Africa and China – is it possible to create biological weapons that will be dangerous for one nation and will not threaten another in any way?

– Okay, let's imagine that, let's say, the African Zulu tribe suddenly created a biological weapon against the rest of the world. Theoretically, this is possible. For example, a genotype that is susceptible to sickle cell anemia is common in Africa. A very unpleasant thing. In people with such a genotype, with any insufficient oxygen supply, with heart failure, red blood cells shrink and hardly tolerate oxygen. This genotype is common in Africa because it protects against malaria. And so, they took Zulu and tried to infect the Chinese with malaria. Yes, there will be about half as many dead among the Zulu as in the rest of the world, but there will still be losses on both sides. So why do you need such a weapon if the usual one works much more efficiently?

Let's even imagine a situation with a much more deadly disease than malaria. Let's say the Zulu decided to drop microbiological bombs on the whole world with a huge amount of anthrax bacillus. How can the Zulu themselves avoid death? The easiest way is to vaccinate your population in advance. But, firstly, the probability of infection still remains. And secondly, in the modern world with PCR methods, it is impossible to keep the use of these weapons secret. The pathogen is very easy to identify. The actual use of biological weapons is impossible due to its inefficiency and easy detection. It seriously loses compared to conventional weapons.

– What evidence should the Russian Defense Ministry have provided to convince the whole world that biological weapons were really being developed in Ukraine? Is it possible, for example, to take the pathogens of plague or anthrax from Russian laboratories and declare that they are found in Ukraine?

– It's very risky for your own reputation. For example, it turns out that this strain of plague has already been described in a Russian laboratory. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation will present the pathogen to international experts, and they will respond: "I'm sorry, but this is a strain from Mongolia. That you're giving us noodles." After all, all strains are as individual as fingerprints.

You can, of course, find some strain that is widely distributed and used in hundreds of world laboratories. But, as we have already said, the fact that it will be presented as found in Ukraine will not be proof of the development of biological weapons. It will be necessary to present to the world community... (laughs) a tank found in Ukraine that contains tens of kilograms of anthrax spores. Only then will it be suspicious. This is the same situation as if the Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukraine was preparing to launch a nuclear strike on Russia. Then it would be necessary to demonstrate thousands of kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, allegedly manufactured at Ukrainian enterprises.

But in both cases, the forgery would be easy to expose. A good fake is generally very difficult to make. When a person does some work, it is easier for him to do this work than to fabricate a fake that it has actually been carried out. This is the same as trying to imitate someone else's letter, and in a foreign language and from another era. I can now try to write a message on behalf of a person of the 20s of the last century, but any more or less competent specialist will immediately find out that this is a fake. It is much easier to detect a fake than to make it.

Judging by the absurdity of the accusations that have already been made, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation is not very concerned about bringing reliable evidence at all. It is enough to state that Ukraine is developing biological weapons and publish the first documents that come across. And then, if there is a fuss, say: "I'm sorry, we made an ill-considered statement."

– Will the sediment still remain, will the propaganda work?

– That's the calculation. Perhaps the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation wanted to find something more convincing than the published documents on the disposal of conditionally dangerous strains. But, to be honest, I don't think they were thinking about it at all right now. After all, the accusation of creating biological weapons is urgently needed, right now. Not in six months and not for the international community. It is designed for instant effect among Russians. And all foreign specialists who see this statement, they are simply amazed.

My post with an appeal to the editorial offices of propaganda media was read by many, including quite well-known scientists. They assessed the reliability of the evidence and said it was just some kind of madness. And they responded to my suggestion to somehow spread this information: "Is it worth it? If you take this obvious lie too seriously, they may think that maybe there really is something there... and so it's just obvious absurdity."

Perhaps they are right for their environment. But here, in Russia, the situation is different. Here 90% of people believed in obviously false accusations.

– Did you expect a response from the editorial offices of the media that published this lie?

– To be honest, no, I didn't count on it. If they wrote it, they won't write anything else. It is a pity that in Russia it is now possible to publish such absurd fakes. At other times, it was impossible to imagine anything like this.

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