ArmInfo. There are American biological laboratories in Armenia, Kazakhstan and in the countries of Central Asia. This was stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with RT Arabic, to clarify where else, apart from Ukraine, there are American laboratories not far from Russia.
"There are such laboratories in Armenia, Kazakhstan and the countries of Central Asia. We are considering these problems with these countries on a bilateral basis and through the CSTO. We have concluded (already concluded or being prepared for conclusion) memorandums of cooperation on biological safety with almost all the CSTO countries and other CIS countries, involving mutual informing about how biological programs are developing in each of our countries," the Russian minister noted.
At the same time, he pointed out the importance of transparency, which makes it possible to make sure that these programs do not have a military dimension, since it is prohibited by the Convention. "These memorandums involve mutual visits and familiarization with the activities of the laboratories. In addition, it is written that there should not be military representatives of any third party at the biological facilities of each of our parties," Lavrov added.
To clarify what interest these countries have in having such laboratories, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry recalled that the Soviet Union was implementing a large biological program.
The diplomat noted that when the Soviet Union joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons, this program was devoid of military aspects, but the scientific value of biological research remains.
"We all remember the state of our country in 1991, when the USSR ceased to exist. We were faced with the problems of maintaining the integrity of the Russian Federation, the problem of the lack of state reserves to pay off the state debt and even to purchase elementary things necessary for the daily life of the Russian population. Our Western partners then, as we say, actively " swept in", offered their services in all areas of life, penetrated into all spheres of the newly independent states, sent advisers, advisers," Lavrov said, adding that Russia is now experiencing the consequences of those times.
rNoting that after gaining independence, all post-Soviet republics have been strengthened and established as absolutely sovereign, independent states, the Russian Foreign Minister added that it is up to them to decide which partners to choose. "We have agreements with them, according to which the obligations undertaken at one time within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union should be fully respected by other countries interested in developing relations with all states in the post-Soviet space. "We discussed the problems that we all had during the formation of the new statehood. Through various services, we exchange information about the risks associated with such undivided cooperation with foreign countries in delicate, sensitive areas. Biology, of course, is one of such areas. There is an understanding that we have a common space for biological safety. Security issues that directly relate to public health and the environment are within the powers of the CSTO. We will continue our constructive cooperation on the basis of all these statutory documents," Lavrov summed up.
Earlier, in 2016, with the funding of the US Department of Defense, three laboratories were opened in Armenia: in Yerevan, in Gyumri and in Ijevan. According to experts, currently, their number has reached 12. There are regular reports in the Armenian and Russian media that these laboratories are dual-use facilities, can be used for military purposes, to make and produce biological weapons. The US DoD allocated $15.5 million for the establishment of a reference laboratory in Yerevan, with a total funding of $18 million. In Yerevan, $4.1 million was invested for the complete construction of the reference laboratory of the Department of Food Safety for Highly Dangerous Pathogens of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia, and $9.8 million was invested by the US government to repair the reference laboratory of the "National Center for Disease Control and Prevention" of the Ministry of Health of Armenia , ensuring the seismic stability of the building and creating the necessary laboratory infrastructure. An additional $1.7 million was allocated for both laboratories to purchase new equipment and furniture.
It is noteworthy that Moscow and Yerevan announced the start of work on a document on the admission of Russian specialists to American biological laboratories in the Republic of Armenia back in 2018. Moreover, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Russia at a joint press conference on November 11, 2019 in Yerevan, announced the completion of work in this direction, and the expectation of the agreement of the document at the interdepartmental level in the two countries. However, after that, all talk on this issue subsided.