Russia's Defense Ministry claims the US tested biological weapons at a medical facility in Georgia. A US official told DW that the allegations are part of Russia's "disinformation campaign" against the West.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on Thursday that the US undertook a secret biological weapons testing program in Georgia, killing at least 73 people.
The latest claims come just hours after international condemnation of Russia for a series of hacking attempts, including an alleged attempted hack on the chemical weapons agency that was investigating whether Moscow had poisoned Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.
The US Department of Defense told DW that the accusations were "an invention of the imaginative and false Russian disinformation campaign against the West."
Russia's Defense Ministry claims that the Lugar Center, a US-funded medical facility in the Caucasus nation, was used as a cover for testing biological agents.
"The almost simultaneous deaths of a large number of volunteers implies that the Lugar Center was testing a highly toxic chemical or a highly lethal biological agent under the guise of [medical] treatment," Igor Kirillov, the chief of the Russian military's radiation, chemical and biological protection unit, said on Thursday, as quoted by Russian news agency Interfax. "The demonstrated documents showed that the test resulted in mass fatalities among patients. Despite the fact that 24 had died in December 2015 alone, the clinical tests went on bypassing international standards and took place against the patients' will. This resulted in the death of another 49 people."
Exiled Georgian politician the source
Kirilov said that Igor Giorgadze had provided the reports and that the medication being tested was called "Sovaldi."
The former Georgian security minister in question, Giorgadze, first fled Georgia for Moscow in the 1990s. He or his supporters have been accused of involvement in two assassination attempts against former Georgian presidents. Giorgadze also founded a political movement calling itself "anti-Soros."
US denies claims
It is not the first time the claims have been made, and the United States has previously labeled the allegations as "absurd."
Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told DW on Thursday that the fresh claims by the Russian authorities are "obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia's bad behavior on many fronts."
Pahon cited Russia's role in propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, its "illegal occupations" in Crimea or Georgia and its "blatant violations of the INF treaty [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty]."
Pahon denied that the US was developing biological weapons in the Lugar Center, calling it a "joint human and veterinary public health facility."
"These are also not US facilities," he said.