The State Department and the Pentagon have pushed back against Moscow’s claims that Russian forces have found, and in some cases destroyed, Ukrainian biological weapons labs funded by the United States.
“I’m fearful that this could be the new direction of a Russian false flag operation,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner told top U.S. intelligence officials at a hearing on Thursday.
Senator Marco Rubio also said that the Russian accusation combined with recent comments by some U.S. officials have “got some people fired up.”
“Let me be clear. We do not assess that Ukraine is pursuing either biological weapons or nuclear weapons… the propaganda that Russia is putting out,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said.
Haines also said that while Washington has in the past provided some assistance in Ukraine, it has been in the context of biosafety.
“This influence campaign is completely consistent with long-standing Russian efforts to accuse the United States of sponsoring bioweapons work in the former Soviet Union,” Haines added.
Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns also raised concern that Russia might be telegraphing one of its next moves in its now two-week-old invasion of Ukraine.
“This is something … that’s very much a part of Russia’s playbook. They’ve used those weapons against their own citizens. They’ve at least encouraged the use in Syria and elsewhere, so it’s something that we take very seriously,” Burns said.
Earlier, Ukraine has also rejected the Russian claims, with a spokesperson for President Volodymyr Zelensky saying Kyiv “strictly denies any such allegation.”
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