Azerbaijan rejects Russia’s unfounded bio-lab accusations
By Vugar Khalilov
Recently, Azerbaijan's State Security Service rejected accusations by Russian representatives at the United Nations, who blamed Azerbaijan for running biological research centers with alleged financial support from third countries.
The claim, repeated by the Russian Defense Ministry for several years, this time was made by Moscow at the UN and targeted not only Azerbaijan but also Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia.
In response, Azerbaijan’s State Security Service (SSS) has unequivocally denied the presence of foreign biological laboratories in Azerbaijan.
“Recently, representatives of the Russian Federation have repeatedly expressed opinions, among others at international events, about the activities in Azerbaijan of centers allegedly conducting scientific research on biological weapons with the financial support of third countries,” the service said.
The SSS added that such unsubstantiated statements are causing some concern among the Azerbaijani public.
“In this regard, we note that such scientific centers have never functioned in Azerbaijan and there have been no studies that could harm the health of the population of the country or citizens of neighboring states. It is regrettable that such information, not confirmed by Azerbaijan, is voiced at international events, including the United Nations. Also, based on partnerships, we express our readiness to investigate specific cases, if they are provided by the opposite side,” the service added.
Unfounded, slanderous claims
Moscow has created its propaganda on US biological facilities in Ukraine after the commencement of the Russian-Ukrainian war. According to Russia's Defense Ministry, there are some 30 US-owned biomedical labs in Ukraine.
Igor Kirillov, chief of the radiation, chemical, and biological defense forces of the Russian military, made a statement on the US military biological program in Ukraine, claiming that the US Department of Defense is carrying out military biological projects throughout the former Soviet Union.
According to unofficial sources, the US-owned laboratories have been active in Ukraine since 2010, in Georgia since 2011, and in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia since 2016. Moscow has long been worried about the activities of Armenia-based bio-laboratories as well.
Surprisingly, when Russian media outlets discuss the issue, they claim that one of these laboratories is located in Azerbaijan.
A few years ago, Igor Kirillov claimed that there were allegedly Pentagon-controlled laboratories in Azerbaijan and that they were even "being rebuilt".
"There are no laboratories in Azerbaijan under the control of another state. Therefore, there is no question of their reconstruction," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied the allegations immediately.
On January 22, the Rossiya-24 TV channel aired a program about microbiological laboratories created by the US Defense Department (the Pentagon) in a number of ex-Soviet nations.
The documentary "Andromeda strain" by investigative journalist Arkady Mamontov talks about US biological facilities in former Soviet states. Unfortunately, Mamontov, a well-known Russian investigative journalist, who has produced a number of compelling films, stated that similar laboratories existed in Azerbaijan but failed to offer any evidence.
The film also discusses Armenian laboratories. According to the journalist, Armenia, which has a population of 3 million people, owns 12 such laboratories. Mamontov clearly expresses dissatisfaction with it in his film and does not even hesitate to use expressions insulting Armenians.
What is the reason behind such claims?
Azerbaijani experts consider these claims as unfounded, saying that Russia's statements may in reality be to legitimize the war in Ukraine. They describe the allegations against Azerbaijan as not convincing since the country always pursued a balanced foreign policy in the region.
Ruslan Imamguliyev, a military analyst, sees certain dangers in Russia's accusations against Azerbaijan.
“Indeed, such concerns appear to be a pretext. This can be seen in a variety of ways. Under such pretexts, the US campaign in Iraq began and culminated with Saddam Hussein's execution. If Russia wants to take similar steps, we need to be careful. I don't believe such laboratories exist in Azerbaijan, particularly in collaboration with the USA," Imamguliyev said.
Analyst Qabil Huseynli told Musavat.com that the documentary was
"deliberate disinformation" aimed at damaging relations between
Baku and Moscow.
"Azerbaijan is not a colony of any superpower; it also does not pursue a policy of becoming a tool in the geopolitical struggle. There is no foreign army base or laboratory in our country, we are not a member of any military alliance. With this policy, Azerbaijan insures itself against open threats from superpowers," Huseynli said.
According to Huseynli, the Armenian Diaspora in Russia is active in the media.
“But the journalist [Mamontov] made a serious mistake. If he had evidence, he would have published images or proof that confirm it. There is no biological laboratory of any state in Azerbaijan. From time to time, we have been accused of this, but no evidence has ever been indicated,” he added.
The Azerbaijani Minval news and analysis website termed Mamontov's report as "video slander".
"Mr. Mamontov does not present any proof of the 'anti-Russian' activities of 'a biological laboratory' in Azerbaijan. He did not even think it necessary to visit Azerbaijan and see it for himself. Apparently, he did not find those willing to play the role of 'well-informed sources'," Minval wrote.
"It does not even occur to him that cooperation with the USA in
the sphere of biological research is indeed about fighting
epidemics rather than about carrying out some malicious experiments
or a 'biological warfare'," it added.
The website wondered why Russian TV targeted Azerbaijan, which "refrains from openly anti-Russian steps" and which has stated on many occasions that it would not let its territory to be used against its neighbors.
Minval suggested that the reason could be Baku's independent
foreign and energy policies. The website said that the "hatred
microbes" in Mamontov's report, which could spoil relations between
Baku and Moscow, were a bigger threat to Russia than the alleged
Another website, Caliber.az, also criticized the documentary for the failure to produce evidence proving the existence of "secret American biological laboratories" in Azerbaijan.
"Taking account of the nature of the Russian-Azerbaijani interstate relations (as well as personal warm relations between the leaders of the two countries), Azerbaijan will never allow the establishment of American biological laboratories on its territory, which could be assessed in Russia as an unfriendly move," Caliber said.
According to MP Elman Nasirov of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), the political palette in Russia is not uniform.
"The Russian-Azerbaijani relations are of a strategic partnership, relations between the leaders are at the highest level, and the atmosphere of political dialogue is at a high level. However, this does not mean that all parties in Russia have a similar approach to us. Pro-Armenian forces, the Armenian Diaspora, and the lobby in this country benefit from Russia's information environment and spread lies against Azerbaijan. The issue you are talking about is the same kind,” Nasirov underlined.
Nasirov believes that it is only a slander against Azerbaijan, and in this way, the Russian authorities are trying to create elements of pressure on our country.
“This is absurd and not based on any proof. In addition, we do not need those biological laboratories," Nasirov stressed.
According to the MP, it is undeniable that the Pentagon has a biological laboratory in Armenia and its activities are not secret.
“The Armenian government has not denied this. The presence of the US laboratory was also highlighted in the conflict between Russia and Armenia. At the same time, it was discussed why the largest US embassy in the post-Soviet space is in Yerevan. That is why the Russian authorities have called for the closure of the laboratory in Armenia. The Pashinyan government did not take a firm stand on this issue but played a double game. On the one hand, it claims that the biological laboratory is not directed against Russia; on the other hand, it continues to cooperate with the United States. Therefore, the journalist's documentary is partially true,” Nasirov said.
Mamontov’s documentary talks about laboratories near Gyumri and Lake Goycha and draws attention to the location of dangerous experiments near the residential area in Armenia. The author also drew attention to the low standard of living in Gyumri, where the US laboratory is located, where millions are allocated.
The end of the section on Armenia is also interesting. "These ordinary people seem to believe that Americans are working for them. But it never occurs to them that they are being used as rabbits for experiments,” he says.
To recap, in the fall of 2019, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to sign a memorandum of cooperation with Russian experts to allay suspicions related to the bio-labs. Although the details were agreed upon, at the last moment Armenia refused the document.
In January 2022, Russia and Armenia signed an agreement on the inspection of these laboratories. The document states that Russian specialists will inspect research centers.
Armenia was one of the first countries to show interest in the multibillion-dollar US Joint Biodiversity Participation Program in 2008. It is clear that the traditional interest of official Yerevan was the desire to attract the next foreign funding to the country.
In 2008, the United States began working with Armenia to locate biological laboratories in that country. This cooperation, which envisages the construction of a total of 12 biological laboratories, was presented to the public by the Armenian government as an important project for the biological security and provision of Armenia.
However, it was hidden that the customer of the project was the US Department of Defense. The program was initially presented as a medical-biological program, and the project envisaged the development of the ability to detect and neutralize viruses in 25 countries in Eurasia and Africa.
After its construction, some of these laboratories in Armenia were able to play a kind of "field" role in the "cultivation" of viruses in the US military-biological laboratory and to export the "cultivated viruses" to the Lugar Military-Biological Center in Georgia.
Both laboratories in Armenia and the Lugar Biological Center in Georgia compile a general database on the nature, distribution, and mutation capabilities of specific dangerous pathogens in the South Caucasus region, as well as in the area stretching from Russia and Iran to Central Asia, which, of course, is used by the US Department of Defense.