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West accuses Russia of using UN council to spread propaganda

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Six Western nations accused Russia of using the United Nations (UN) Security Council to launder disinformation, spread propaganda and justify an unprovoked attack on Ukraine on Friday, and the United States (US) again warned that Moscow’s claim the US has biological warfare laboratories in Ukraine “is really a potential false flag effort in action”.

The meeting was originally intended for a vote on Russia’s draft resolution on humanitarian relief for Ukraine, which has been widely criticised for making no mention of Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour. But Russia cancelled the vote on Thursday and announced it would use the meeting instead to raise what it called new allegations of US involvement in biological warfare activities. Those have been repeatedly denied by both the US and Ukraine.

The six Western nations – US, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Albania, Ireland and Norway – delivered a joint statement just before the session saying: “This meeting and these lies are designed for one purpose, to deflect responsibility for Russia’s war of choice and the humanitarian catastrophe it has caused.”

They said that Russia, not Ukraine, has long maintained a biological weapons programme in violation of international law and has a well-documented history of using chemical weapons.

And they accused Russia of abusing its responsibilities and privileges as a permanent member of the Security Council and subverting the council’s mandate to ensure international peace and security, calling its “horrific campaign of violence against the Ukrainian people… deeply shameful”.

Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaking at the United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters. PHOTO: AP

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who read the joint statement, later told the Security Council not to forget why they were meeting – “because Russia knew its cynical ploy to pass an exculpatory resolution had failed” and it had to cancel Friday’s vote.

The resolution would have needed at least nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council and no veto by a permanent member to be approved. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia indicated it didn’t have the votes, accusing the West, and especially the US and Albania, on Thursday of using “unprecedented pressure” on UN member nations to oppose the measure.

On Friday, Thomas-Greenfield reiterated what she told the council at a March 11 session called by Russia on its original bioweapons allegations: “Ukraine does not have a biological weapons programme. There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories – not near Russia’s border, not anywhere.”

Ukraine only has public health facilities supported by the US, the World Health Organization, and other governments and international institutions, she said.

Reiterating the Biden administration’s concern about a potential false flag effort, Thomas-Greenfield said, “We continue to believe it is possible that Russia may be planning to use chemical or biological agents against the Ukrainian people.”

Nebenzia responded by calling accusations that Russia intends to deploy biological and chemical weapons against Ukraine “real cynicism”.

“We’ve already warned about the fact that we know, and we officially warned… about Ukrainian nationalists using chemical agents in some regions to carry out a provocation and then accuse Russia of having done it,” he said. “This is a false flag operation.”