Hoaxlines Report

Russia falsely claims US laboratories have moved from Ukraine to Mongolia

 

 

Table of Contents

The Hoaxline

According to Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev, after the beginning of the “special operation in Ukraine,” the Americans moved their top-secret bioweapons to Mongolia:

Americans are going to build laboratories there. There are good reasons to believe that these are the same ones that they have curtailed in Ukraine. It is important for them to remain close to Russia.

 

The Evidence

Hoaxlines inquired about the claims about the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the relocation of laboratories. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency Public Affairs told Hoaxlines:

 

Our Agency has no current, active, or planned engagements with Mongolia. We are not aware of any relationship between Ukraine and Mongolia to move pathogens.

The Russian state has offered no evidence for its repeated assertions related to false claims it made about laboratories.  Given Russia’s history of making false claims about the United States and biological weapons–Russia spread bioweapon disinformation about the US for the first time no later than 1949–we’re not taking Russia’s word on this.

 

To provide just one example of the harm Russia has caused with similar narratives, in 1982 after a long-term Soviet disinformation campaign, Pakistan denied visa renewals to US scientists and ordered them to leave the country under threat of arrest. The scientists were there with the equivalent of over $9 billion in 2022 to research malaria control and prevent thousands of deaths in the region per year. 

 

Why did Pakistan become so hostile toward the scientists then? A Soviet disinformation campaign had been systematically spreading rumors that the US was studying biological warfare for use in Cuba by experimenting on Pakistan’s people. The cost of this disinformation was every life we could have saved between 1982 and the early 2000s when Pakistan finally reduced malaria cases in the area. 

 

The Context

The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications, which has published daily digests of Russia’s false claims, sees a more ominous meaning in the Kremlin’s game of musical bioweapons labs:

Moscow is trying to further draw Beijing to its side in the war not so much with Kyiv as with Washington. We will see what happens, but the intentions of the propaganda are quite clear.

 

The Verdict: False

Claims that the US has moved laboratories from Ukraine to Mongolia are without evidence and the Agency “has no current, active, or planned engagements with Mongolia.”

 

Examples of bioweapon disinformation

Soviet bioweapon disinformation started no later than 1949 and it has been a lasting favorite, adapted to new outbreaks and crises. Here are some examples of bioweapon disinformation from the past two decades.

 

2002 to 2003

 

2005

 

2009

 

2012

 

2016

 

2017

  • In 2017, the narrative that was spread by Russian and Chinese accounts first appeared. A pro-Kremlin hacking collective called CyberBerkut, Russian state media, and later an FSB-controlled outlet in 2018, published false claims about biological weapons and laboratories in Ukraine and Georgia.

    • Fact check from the original disinformation campaign

 

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