A US-funded biomedical laboratory in Georgia may have conducted bioweapons research under the guise of a drug test, which claimed the lives of at least 73 subjects, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research has been operating near Georgian capital Tbilisi since August 2013. A former Georgian minister not long ago claimed he obtained leaked documents detailing the work of this facility. The Russian defense ministry on Thursday said the documents indicate that a test of weapons of mass destruction may have taken place at the site.
The documents record the deaths of 73 people over a short period of time, indicating a test of “a highly toxic chemical or biological agents with high lethality rate,”said Igor Kirillov, the commander of the Russian military branch responsible for defending troops from radiological, chemical and biological weapons.
The documents, which were published by Igor Giorgadze, the former Georgian minister for state security on his website say that the test involved a drug called Sovaldi, which is meant for the treatment of Hepatitis C. The producer of the drug is Gilead Sciences, a California-based biomedical firm that recruited former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a board member in 1988, in between his two tenures as head of the Pentagon.
“The documents showed many lethal outcomes among the patients. Despite the deaths of 24 people in December 2015 alone, the clinical trials were continued in violation of international standards and the wishes of the patients,” Kirillov claimed. “This led to the deaths of 49 more people.”
The large number of deaths stands in stark contrast with the actual documented use of Sovaldi in Russia, where no deaths have been linked to the drug, the Russian official stressed. Kirillov added that the US has a long record of unethical testing on human subjects in foreign countries.
The Russian official said the new documents “allow us to take a fresh look” at outbreaks of African swine fever in southern Russia in 2007-2018, which “spread from the territory of Georgia into the Russian Federation, European nations and China. The infection strain in the samples collected from animals killed by the disease in those nations was “identical to the Georgia-2007 strain.”
The general said the Lugar Center in Georgia is simply part of a large network of Pentagon-controlled laboratories involved in WMD research, which was established in countries neighboring Russia. Part of the research is meant to establish infections that would be particularly resistant to vaccination and treatment, and effectively spread in the environment of the places in which the labs are located, he said.
Russia will take “diplomatic and military action” in response to a perceived threat from US labs, said Vladimir Shamanov, head of Russian parliament’s Defense Committee. He was commenting on accusations by the Defense Ministry. “We cannot simply turn a blind eye to things happening near our southern borders that directly affect our safety,” he told TASS news agency.