Fact Check: There Are NO US-Run Bioweapons Laboratories In Ukraine

Fact Check

  • by: Courtney Kealy
Fact Check: There Are NO US-Run Bioweapons Laboratories In Ukraine No US Bio Labs

Did Russian President Vladimir Putin destroy U.S.-run bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine? No, that's not true: There are no U.S.-run bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine, according to the U.S. Department of Defense's (DOD) Threat Reduction Agency. An article that claimed "Western-sponsored bioweapons laboratories" exist in Ukraine was published on a self-described satirical website whose disclaimer says it publishes articles for "entertainment purposes."

The claim appeared in an article published by realrawnews.com on February 25, 2022, titled "Putin Tells Trump, 'We're Burning the Trash.' Biolaboratories Destroyed - Real Raw News" (archived here). It opened:

Vladimir Putin has kept frequent contact with Donald J. Trump as Russian soldiers, aircraft, and warships continue to bombard eastern Ukraine, targeting not civilians but Western-sponsored bioweapons laboratories that zigzag the countryside like a child's connect-the-dots puzzle, a Mar-a-Lago source told Real Raw News. Our source emphasizes he is reporting only what Putin has told [...]

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Putin Tells Trump, "We're Burning the Trash." Biolaboratories Destroyed - Real Raw News

Vladimir Putin has kept frequent contact with Donald J. Trump as Russian soldiers, aircraft, and warships continue to bombard eastern Ukraine, targeting not civilians but Western-sponsored bioweapons laboratories that zigzag the countryside like a child's connect-the-dots puzzle, a Mar-a-Lago source told Real Raw News. Our source emphasizes he is reporting only what Putin has told [...]

While the article also claims that Putin has been in contact with former U.S. President Donald Trump, there is no public evidence to support that. This fact check will address only the claim of "Western-sponsored bioweapons laboratories" purportedly in Ukraine.

Robert Pope, director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program at the DOD's Threat Reduction Agency, said in an email to Lead Stories on March 1, 2022:

The claims in this article are simply not true.

Pope also said there are no U.S. bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine:

The Ukrainians own and operate their own laboratory infrastructure. The Department of Defense, through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, helps foreign partners like Ukraine with upgrading or building new labs that have the most modern equipment and training to be in compliance with International Health Regulations, and providing our foreign partners, like Ukraine, with safe and secure facilities to detect and identify disease outbreaks - before they become pandemics. Furthermore, Ukrainian Labs receive support and sponsorship from a range of international sources including the WHO, EU, and US Department of Defense.

Pope added:

... the labs in question are Ukraine's public health, animal health, and food safety labs. And the United States does not enable our foreign partners to develop biological weapons. Second, through a very robust daily disinformation campaign, yes, Russia is targeting the DoD Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and Ukrainian-owned and operated labs with dubious and untrue claims. The laboratory upgrades and training provided by the United States to Ukraine, and other partner countries, is a frequent target of Russian disinformation campaigns, making unscrupulous and baseless claims the United States is developing biological weapons, and even worse, killing people in partner countries. These claims are outright lies, designed to drive a wedge between the successful biological threat reduction efforts of the United States and its partner countries.

Pope's email also included a link to this video to show the U.S. government's public response to such claims.

There is a treaty between the U.S. and Ukraine signed in Kyiv on August 29, 2005. In the agreement, the U.S. Department of Defense and Ukraine's Ministry agreed to cooperate

in the Area of Prevention of Proliferation of Technology, Pathogens and Expertise that could be Used in the Development of Biological Weapons.

But, as noted above, the labs are Ukrainian-owned and funded.

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine previously posted a statement to its website on April 22, 2020, on such misinformation:

to set the record straight regarding disinformation spreading in some circles in Ukraine that mirrors Russian disinformation regarding the strong U.S.-Ukrainian partnership to reduce biological threats.

Here in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Defense's Biological Threat Reduction Program works with the Ukrainian Government to consolidate and secure pathogens and toxins of security concern in Ukrainian government facilities, while allowing for peaceful research and vaccine development. We also work with our Ukrainian partners to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.

Other posts on social media also carried similar unsubstantiated claims, with no sourcing or evidence, such as this:

Screen Shot 2022-03-02 at 3.36.53 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Mar 2 08:37 2022 UTC)

Real Raw News has a long history of publishing false claims in mock news stories, many of them about convictions and executions of various public figures at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. For example, the site reported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hanged (she wasn't); former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was executed (he wasn't); and that "the military" convicted former Attorney General William Barr on charges of treason (it didn't).

The website for Real Raw News includes a disclaimer that warns readers not to take its content too seriously. Specifically, it says:

Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.

Real Raw snip.jpg

(Source: RealRawNews.com screenshot taken Tue Aug 3 16:39:48 UTC 2021)

Lead Stories has covered claims published by Real Raw News in the past. Previous Lead Stories debunks of Real Raw News items are collected here.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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  Courtney Kealy

Courtney Kealy is a writer and fact-checker at Lead Stories. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, she specializes in national and foreign affairs with more than two decades experience in the Middle East. Her work has appeared on FOX News, AlJazeera America, ABC News, the New York Times, Marie Claire, Time and Newsweek.

Read more about or contact Courtney Kealy

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