'Small kernel of truth' behind Ukraine 'bioweapons labs' conspiracies -- but they're being spread for sinister purposes: expert
'Researcher in the laboratory' (Shutterstock)

American right-wingers -- including Fox News personalities -- have been amplifying Russian conspiracy theories about Ukrainian "bioweapons labs," but one expert said they may be based on a "small kernel of truth."

The claims have been rocketing around social media since early March, when the Kremlin boosted the theory to justify its invasion, and an American bioweapons expert told Mother Jones those claims might be based on the chaotic dissolution of the Soviet Union -- which had left behind some dangerous weapons in Ukraine.

“That left a big problem, because Ukraine still housed all manner of nuclear and chemical weapons from the Soviet era, left behind—thousands of warheads, in fact," said the expert, who has security clearances and has worked closely with government officials.

"The U.S. has quietly been helping Ukraine to dismantle its Soviet-era chem/bio stuff," added the expert, who is not connected to the Biden administration. "It seems possible that some U.S. expertise (and possibly a small number of U.S. personnel?) remains in Ukraine, established to retire safely the Soviet-era WMD. I have no specific idea what chem/bio matériel was left behind. So, at the core of those right-wingnut conspiracy theories may be a small kernel of truth, but one that’s being distorted beyond any (responsible) recognition.”

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The secrecy of the de-armament work undertaken by the U.S. and Ukraine, which agreed to give up its nuclear weapons as part of a 1994 treaty with Russia, has allowed the conspiracy theories to flourish.

“Prior to Putin’s war,” the expert said, “the U.S. had certainly paid the Ukrainians to dismantle WMD, and also sent experts to help with it. But given the little of that story that is public knowledge, so much of that collaborative de-armament work was done secretly/covertly — for obvious and understandable reasons.”

But he said the theories are being amplified and distorted for sinister purposes.

“Putin might try to use the existence of any existing Ukrainian labs that deal with chem/bio, and whatever U.S. connections these may — or may not — have, as a pretext under some kind of false-flag operation," the expert said. "Putin often accuses his adversaries of precisely the same thing that he’s doing.”