Conspiracy theories about America financing biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine

Edward Wong ■ Diplomatic and international correspondent for The New York Times

Days ago, one of Russia’s best-selling disinformation campaigns escalated when the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries issued statements falsely claiming that the Pentagon was funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. These same allegations were repeated by Chinese diplomats and Chinese state media organizations at press conferences in Beijing, in press articles, and on official social media accounts.

In response to this, the White House took an unusual step in its response to the coordinated propaganda campaign in both countries, when it said that they might provide cover for a possible attack by the Russian military with biological or chemical weapons on the Ukrainians.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “After Russia promoted these false allegations, and China supported them, we must all be alert to the possibility of Russia using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or fabricating a false operation that someone I used it,” she added, “and it’s a clear pattern.”




Psaki called the accusations “preposterous” and said the United States “does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.” The US State Department called the allegations “complete nonsense” and said Ukraine had no biological weapons laboratories. Subsequently, senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials reiterated those points at a Senate hearing.

The administration of US President Joe Biden and its European and Asian allies have found themselves fighting a media war against both Russia and China, while Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his military assault on Ukraine. The Chinese government’s promotion of Russian disinformation in the midst of the war has raised concern among Western officials because of China’s strong diplomatic standing and its broad internet capabilities. Analysts who study the disinformation peddled by the two countries said this is the first time they have seen such amplification of the conspiracy theory by Beijing and Moscow.


Active advertising campaign


“I’ve never imagined such an active propaganda campaign organized by Russia that would get this level of support from China,” said Brett Schaeffer, a senior analyst at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, who tracks disinformation from China, Russia and Iran. Lots of misinformation about something like this.”

This is the latest display of the close alignment between Beijing and Moscow, which the two countries affirmed in a 5,000-word statement that “has no limits,” issued at a summit between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 4, at which senior Chinese officials demanded Russia will not invade Ukraine before the Winter Olympics are over in Beijing, according to a Western intelligence report.

Beginning last November, US officials quietly held talks with Chinese officials, including China’s ambassador and foreign minister, to discuss intelligence showing Putin mobilizing his forces and persuading the Chinese to tell the Russians not to go to war, but they refused, according to US officials. CIA Director William J. Burns told a Senate hearing that he believed Xi was “dissatisfied” with the war on Ukraine, and apparently was not told what would happen by his own intelligence services.


Denouncing America


Chinese officials have publicly sided with Russia in this war, denouncing the United States for fomenting the conflict, emphasizing Putin’s complaints about NATO expansion while also expressing concern about the humanitarian crisis. Later, Xi repeated the same points his officials had made about the war in a video call with the leaders of France and Germany but added that China was “deeply saddened by the outbreak of war again on the European continent,” according to some sources, but he did not mention that it was Russia that started the fighting.

Using press conferences, state media, and social media accounts around the world, Chinese diplomats are trying to inflame the situation, spreading conspiracy theories rooted in Russian disinformation, with its fiery rhetoric, current and former US officials and independent researchers say.

While Xi was speaking to European leaders on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian raised the issue of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine at a press conference in Beijing, stressing that “Russia discovered during its military operations that the United States uses these facilities to carry out military biological plans.” ». He said, “It has 26 biological laboratories and other related facilities in Ukraine, and the US Department of Defense has absolute control over them.”

Lijian is spreading anti-US conspiracy theories to try to deflect China’s mishandling of the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, and questions about research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He said in March 2020 that the US military may have brought the virus to Wuhan, and confirmed that research in Fort Detrick, Maryland, may have been the root cause of the epidemic. Fort Detrick was mentioned again last Thursday.

Chinese diplomats, government agencies, and Chinese state media organizations have used official accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms to spread a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian laboratories.

Even the diplomat at the Chinese Embassy in Beirut, Cao Yi, posted the theory on Twitter in both Arabic and English.

Scheffer says Telesur, the Venezuelan state television network, “has done a lot of work.”

He also exaggerates the theory of laboratories, but their activity is little compared to what China is doing.” He also said, “Now that American technology platforms have taken action against Russian state media, Chinese state media are filling this gap,” adding, “They are repeating the same points as the Kremlin.”


Conspiracy theory


Various circles have circulated a conspiracy theory about chemical and biological weapons in recent weeks, and far-right American political figures and groups, including Fox News Channel host, Tucker Carlson, spoke about it. The theory may be correct, says journalist critical of US military power and security agencies, Glenn Greenwald. Even dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei retweeted the theory on Twitter.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank that tracks the conflict in Ukraine, also issued a warning Wednesday that the Russian promotion could be part of an effort to lay the groundwork for a chemical or biological attack by Moscow. “Russia may launch or fabricate such an attack and blame Ukraine and NATO to justify additional aggression against Ukraine,” he added. Chinese state media repeated official Russian statements about the Ukraine war, with the false assertion that Ukraine is full of neo-Nazis, and made arguments The claim that the United States is an “empire of lies” stirs the threads of the Kyiv puppet.

The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party, published an article a few days ago saying that the US government was trying to stir up anger against China over the Ukraine war by publishing stories in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Voice of America. Other publications in Chinese state media accused Ukraine of using civilians as human shields, a point of discussion raised in the Kremlin while avoiding any mention of civilian deaths at the hands of the Russian armed forces.

• The administration of US President Joe Biden and its European and Asian allies have found themselves fighting a media war against both Russia and China, while Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his military attack on Ukraine.

• Analysts who study the misinformation promoted by the two countries said that this is the first time they have seen this scale of exaggeration of the conspiracy theory by Beijing and Moscow.


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