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Russian sanitary official concerned about Tbilisi laboratory

by | Apr 9, 2012

Russia's top sanitary inspector questions why Georgia needs to have American military researchers working at this newly opened laboratory near Tbilisi.

TBILISI, DFWatch – Russia’s chief sanitary inspector is concerned about the deployment of U.S. military laboratories at former Soviet medical institutions in Ukraine and Georgia.

According to NEWSru, a Russian news website owned by Gazprom, Gennady Onishchenko said laboratories are deployed in Georgia at a former anti-plague station, which was monitoring particularly dangerous infections, epidemiologists working in the U.S, and is headed by the former head of Georgia’s intelligence service.

Georgia opened a new laboratory called Central Public Health Reference Laboratory one year ago, on the outskirts of Tbilisi close to the international airport. The laboratory is a joint Georgian-U.S. project, which makes use of a collection of live pathogens at what was formerly Tbilisi anti-plague station. Officials said at the opening last year that the lab will not be working on biological weapons.

But locals have been suspicious and in 2004 demonstrated against the plans. The pathogen collection, which is now kept under much more secure conditions, was previously used in the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program. Construction of the lab was overseen by the U.S.’ Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense which works with securing biological, chemical and nuclear weapons related facilities in former Soviet countries.

Recently, the Georgian president’s press office said that there will be American military researchers working at the lab.

Onischenko expresses surprise there will be foreign military doctors near the Russian border from the Georgian side.

“Georgia is clearly not the reason. Georgia has just provided its possibilities for this.”

Onishchenko goes on to blame Georgia of having spread African swine fever to Russia. The fever first spread in de facto republic of South Ossetia, he says, and continued north to Krasnodar and the Stavropol Territory.

“There are signs that this situation is artificially injected. This is economic sabotage, for three years Krasnodar region cannot get out of this,” he said.

The outbreak of swine fever in 2007 severely affected Georgia’s swine stocks and also spread to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

Onishchenko further threatened to close the border for Russian tourists to Ukraine, if local authorities do not resolve the issue regarding a high incidence of cholera there.

The sanitation czar is probably best known for having been in charge of the ban on Georgian and Moldovan wines and other Georgian products in 2006.

 



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