False: The Russian Army is destroying U.S.-controlled biolabs.

By: Matthew Ross
March 2 2022

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False: The Russian Army is destroying U.S.-controlled biolabs.


The Verdict False

Putin has not ordered the Russian Army to destroy "U.S. biolabs" in Ukraine as part of an operation against the "Deep State."

Claim ID aaf09bf4

Putin has not ordered the Russian Army to destroy "U.S. biolabs" in Ukraine as part of an operation against the "Deep State."Social media users and conspiracy theory-based news organizations have claimed that a significant focus of Putin's invasion of Ukraine is to destroy biolabs run by the U.S. A site called Newspunch recently published such claims in a piece titled "Putin Orders Military to Destroy Bio-Labs in Ukraine as U.S. Scrubs Evidence of Their Existence." The Newspunch piece contains outlandish speculation about actual reported events, passing these off as evidence for a supposed special military operation to destroy "U.S. biolabs," repeating a Kremlin propaganda narrative that goes back to 2018. The article claims that fact checkers are telling the public that these biolabs do not exist and that it is clarifying the existence, origin, and operations of these facilities. The wartime version of this story was first fact checked by Snopes on February 24, 2022, and has been subsequently covered by other news outlets as the narrative emerged and spread online. While biolabs exist in Ukraine, it is misleading at best to call them "U.S. biolabs." Laboratories that store and study dangerous pathogens are present throughout the former Soviet bloc, with many dating back to the Cold War. The U.S. did not build any of these facilities. That said, in 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine entered into a mutual agreement to work together to safeguard the labs as part of a broader effort to prevent bioterrorism. The installations are run by the Ukrainian government, with some funding for upgrades and repairs provided by the U.S. The Newspunch piece alleges that Putin's invading forces are targeting the labs to disrupt an alleged "Deep State" plot. There is no evidence that the Russian Army is deliberately targeting these labs. A headline from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reading "U.S. official: Russian invasion of Ukraine risks release of dangerous pathogens" is misleadingly presented as evidence of an admission of nefarious activities. In the same article, the head of the U.S. Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, Robert Pope, states his belief that a deliberate attack is improbable as it could potentially cause deadly outbreaks and instead worries about unintentional damage to the facilities as a result of the invasion. Newspunch also points to dead links on the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine's website to PDFs of fact sheets on the laboratories' websites as further evidence of a cover-up. But the archived links in the piece, which once appeared on the U.S. Embassy website, are documents that prove what the U.S. government has already stated: it provides funds for repairs and updates but that the Ukrainian government runs the facilities themselves. There is no evidence that Putin is targeting these facilities as a part of the invasion. This claim feeds into an existing Russian black propaganda narrative about the origins of COVID-19 and its secret purpose as a supposed bioweapon.

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