Russian media, citing the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, have disseminated information that the Pentagon had taken to the United States a unique National Collection of Microorganisms of Ukraine.
“The United States has removed to America the Ukrainian national collection of microorganisms.
The US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has taken the Ukrainian national collection of microorganisms from biological laboratories to America. This was stated on Thursday by the Chief of Russian Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov. During the special operation, the Russian side got access to the final report on the activities of the DTRA from 2005 to 2016, he clarified. «The activities of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency are praised [in the document]: the organization managed to bring the national collection of microorganisms to the United States, organize work in assessing the biological situation and implementation projects to study especially dangerous and economically significant infections that can cause a deterioration (change) in the epidemiological situation», the head of the RChBD troops said. According to Kirillov, the report also gives reasons for the expediency of continuing work in Ukraine in the interests of the Pentagon, while noting that the cost of this activity since 2005 has exceeded $250 million.»
In fact, the information spread by the Russian media and officials that the collection was allegedly taken to the United States is not true. Head of the depository of strains of microorganisms of D.K. Zabolotny Institute of Microbiology an Virology of the NASU,Tatyana Golovach, in a commentary for the media confirmed that the depository continues its work on the basis of the institute. The National Collection of Microorganisms of Ukraine is the largest collection of non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms in Ukraine with the official state status of «Object of the National Heritage of Ukraine».
This means that the collection is a unique object that cannot be reproduced, the loss or destruction of which will have serious negative consequences for the development of science and society. To date, the collection includes more than 5600 cultures of microorganisms, represented by more than 1000 species and 300 genera. It stores microbes found in soil, water, on certain plants, in the human intestines and in the organisms of various animals. D.K. Zabolotny Institute of Microbiology an Virology of the NASU, where the collection is stored, provides free samples to educational institutions for training, as well as on a commercial basis to pharmaceutical companies that use them to test drugs. The list of microorganisms in the collection is not a secret. The website of the Ukrainian Collection of Microorganisms has published a catalog of cultures that reflect the diversity of microbial funds and are of the greatest scientific and practical interest.
The collection contains only non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms, that is, the microorganisms in this collection do not pose a serious danger to humans. Moreover, the specialists of the depositary previously reported that the institute does not deal with dangerous pathogenic microbes, since it is not suitable for such research.
Russia regularly accuses the West of developing biological weapons and operating secret biological laboratories in Ukraine. In numerous publications, Russian media link the work of the Ukrainian Collection of Microorganisms with the activities of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which the Russian Ministry of Defence has repeatedly accused of supervising biological laboratories around the world, including Ukraine. However, it is not true — the National Collection of Microorganisms of Ukraine has nothing to do with the US Bio-Threat Reduction Program. The goal of the US Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) is to reduce biological threats by developing a culture of biological risk management; international research partnerships; partnership capacity to strengthen biosecurity, biocontrol and biosurveillance measures. Since 2005, an agreement has been signed between the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the US Department of Defense on Cooperation in the Area of Proliferation of Technologies, Pathogens and Expertise that Could Be Used in the Development of Biological Weapons. A complete list of medical and scientific laboratories supported by the Pentagon under this agreement is published on the website of the US Embassy in Ukraine in the section «Biological Threat Reduction Program».
The National Collection of Microorganisms of Ukraine is not included in this list. This is not surprising, since the National Collection of Microorganisms of Ukraine is represented by non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms that do not pose a serious danger to humans.