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India urges all countries to abide with Biological Weapons Convention amid raging Russia-US feud on deadly toxins

A file image of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialist of the US Army during an exercise (Image courtesy: US Army/Daniel Parker)

India has reiterated that it is important to ensure full and effective implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) "in letter and spirit" even as the United Nations said Friday that it is "not aware" of any biological weapons programme in Ukraine.

As Russia circulated fresh documents alleging the existence of dangerous biological weapons projects in Ukraine, India told an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it
attaches high importance to BTWC as a key global and non-discriminatory disarmament Convention, prohibiting an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.

"We also believe that any matter relating to obligations under the BTWC should be addressed as per the provisions of the Convention and through consultations and cooperation between the parties concerned," stated Ambassador R Ravindra, India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN. 

Saying that it remains deeply concerned at the progressively deteriorating situation in Ukraine, New Delhi had on Thursday welcomed the latest round of diplomatic talks between Russian and Ukraine, insisting once again that immediate cessation of hostilities and diligently pursuing the path of dialogue and diplomacy is the only way forward. 

While addressing a UNSC briefing on Ukraine, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, India's Permanent Representative to the UN, had also mentioned that New Delhi stands ready to continue to engage on these objectives in the Security Council, as well as with the parties, in the coming days.

"We reiterate our call for immediate cessation of hostilities across Ukraine. Our Prime Minister has reiterated this on several occasions and called for immediate ceasefire and emphasized that there is no option but the path of dialogue and diplomacy," Tirumurti had said on Thursday.

bio weapons

As the issue of biological weapons in Ukraine labs got messier, Tirumurti had last week also urged everyone to abide by the global treaty.

However, Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said on Friday that over the last week, "new details have come to light", namely that the components for biological weapons were being created on Ukrainian territory.  
He recalled that, in the course of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, information was discovered of biological and weapons programme in Ukraine which were "backed by Western colleagues".  

"Last week, when confronted by such evidence, the United States delegate was not able to explain documentary proof of such cooperation — namely, of a 2005 agreement signed between United States and Ukrainian ministers, which laid out support for joint biological research on Ukrainian territory," said Nebenzia yesterday.

Russia alleged that the United States was not assisting the Ukrainian Ministry of Health as it claimed, but rather the Ministry of Defence. He said that Moscow has circulated proof of that agreement to the Security Council, including proof of direct funding to Ukraine amounting to $32 million and of research direction by the Pentagon.

"The representatives of the United States continue to muddle that information, asserting that the country does not operate in any biological laboratories in Ukraine, but the facts show otherwise," said Nebenzia.  

In Ukraine, he said, evidence points to studies that were conducted on Crimean-Congo fever, leptospirosis and other dangerous pathogens.

"As those are naturally present in both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, their use could then be easily dressed up as naturally occurring," he said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Representative, dismissed the Russian allegations saying that the Council already heard a similar "tirade of bizarre conspiracy theories" at its March 11 meeting and the fresh claims sound like they were forwarded "through a chain email from some dark corner of the internet".  

"As I said one week ago, Ukraine does not have a biological weapons program. There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories – not near Russia’s border, not anywhere. There are only public health facilities, proudly – and I say proudly – supported and recognized by the US Government, the World Health Organization, and other governments and international institutions," said Greenfield.

Meanwhile, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council that the United Nations has neither the mandate nor the capacity to investigate such allegations.

She reminded that both Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Biological Weapons Convention which effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons.

Nakamitsu also highlighted that till March 16, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded 2,032 civilian casualties, including 780 killed of whom 58 were children.

 "The actual number of casualties is believed to be much higher," she said.

Also Read: As biological weapons in Ukraine labs issue gets messier, India says abide by global treaty