Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
QUESTION: Today we have a chance to talk about the crisis with Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity and for your time —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: — and for your effort.
So your administration said that Russia can invade any moment. What is your administration ready to do to defer Russian aggression? And what would be the three major steps you would – you are ready to do if Russia will invade tomorrow?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, we’ve offered Russia a clear choice, a choice between pursuing dialogue and diplomacy on the one hand, or confrontation and consequences on the other hand. And we’ve just been engaged in an extensive series of diplomatic engagements with Russia, directly between us, through the Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO with the NATO-Russia Council, at the OSCE, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe. And my hope remains that Russia will pursue that diplomatic path. It’s clearly preferable.
QUESTION: Still, would U.S. —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: But – but to your point, we’ve also – we’ve equally made clear that if Russia chooses to renew its aggression against Ukraine, we – and not just we the United States, we many countries throughout Europe and even some beyond – will respond very forcefully and resolutely, and in three ways.
First, we’ve been working intensely on elaborating extensive sanctions: financial, economic, export controls, and others, and —
QUESTION: Does it include cutting from SWIFT —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — doing that – I’m not going to get into the details of what they are, but we’re doing that in very close coordination with European allies and partners. A second consequence would almost certainly be further assistance, defensive military assistance, to Ukraine. And third, it’s almost certain that NATO would have to reinforce its own defenses on its on its eastern flank.
And you know, what’s so striking about this is that when you think about it, President Putin, going back to 2014, has managed to precipitate what he says he wants to prevent. Because among other things, NATO had to reinforce itself after Russia invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea, the Donbas – after that happened. So we’ve laid out the consequences clearly for Russia, but also the far preferable path of resolving differences diplomatically. And we’ll see which path President Putin decides to take.
QUESTION: Still, the question of is the SWIFT – cutting Russia from SWIFT is on the table, and personal sanctions against personally Putin and his family are on the table.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What I can tell you is this, and it’s not just me saying this – the G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, the European Union, NATO have all each declared as institutions, as a collection of countries that there will be, and I quote, “massive consequences” for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine. We’ve also said that the measures that we’re looking at go well beyond steps that we’ve taken in the past, including in 2014. I’m not going to detail them here or telegraph the steps we take, but I can tell you the consequences would be severe. But again, I want to insist on the fact that it would be far preferable not to have to go down that path. We’re fully prepared to do it, but the preference is to see if we can resolve differences, address concerns in both directions through diplomacy.
QUESTION: Russia ask for a written response to demand never to accept Ukraine into NATO. Are you preparing to – are you preparing such a written response, and what kind?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we had the last week of these important engagements, as I noted, and we now have an opportunity, both Russia and all of us – the United States, our European partners – to take back what we heard from each other. The Russians have gone back and presumably are consulting with President Putin. We’ve done the same in my case with President Biden. The Europeans have done the same with their leaders. And the next step in this process is for me to have a chance to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva on Friday and to see what – how Russia has responded to what’s already been discussed. They’ll hear from us.
Before that, though, I was determined, at President Biden’s instruction, to come here to Kyiv to consult with our Ukrainian partners, and then tomorrow in Berlin to meet with some of our closest European partners. That’s exactly how we’ve proceeded all along. We’ve done everything in very close consultation before and after any of our engagements with Russia.
QUESTION: However, you didn’t answer my question about are you preparing the written response to Russian demand.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Right now, the next step is to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Let’s see where we are after Friday, and we’ll take it from there.
QUESTION: I had that question about Mr. Lavrov. You are scheduled to meet him. Do you see any signs that the Kremlin is changing its position at this point – moment?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I can’t see that I see any direct evidence of that. Unfortunately, we can – we continue to see Russia having amassed very significant forces on Ukraine’s borders. That process seems to continue. On the other hand, the fact that we are meeting in Geneva, the fact that we will be discussing the conversations and exchanges that we’ve had over the last 10 days also suggests to me that diplomacy remains an open possibility, one that we’re determined to pursue as long and far as we can. We want to leave no diplomatic stone unturned, because again, that’s just a much better and more responsible way to deal with these problems.
QUESTION: The Minsk Agreement is seen as the only valuable solution for this crisis. However, Russia and Ukraine has a different reading of the agreement. What has to be done to implement the agreement, or it’s time to renegotiate its norms?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think there’s any need to renegotiate because, as you say, there is an agreement. In fact, there are actually three of them because Minsk evolved 2014 to 2015, and there are a number of very clear steps that both of the parties have to take. I think it’s fair to say looking back that many of those steps Ukraine has either implemented or begun to implement. There are some that it hasn’t yet tackled. I think unfortunately, it’s equally fair to say that Russia has done virtually nothing in terms of the steps required of it in the Minsk Agreement.
So the first question is whether Russia is serious about resolving the Donbas through the Minsk process. If it is, I agree with you. I think that’s the best and right now really the only way forward. France, Germany are an important part of this through the so-called Normandy Format, and there are supposed to be upcoming meetings in that process. And again, it’s a test of whether Russia is serious about it. The one positive sign that we’ve seen in the last few weeks when it comes to Minsk is a loose ceasefire that is clearly an improvement over where things were that takes us back to where we were in 2020.
But the real question is: Is Russia serious about implementing Minsk? If it is, we are prepared to facilitate that, we’re prepared to support that, we’re prepared to engage in that, but in support of this Normandy process that France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine are engaged in.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned Germany, you mentioned Normandy Format, there was a lot of talks about U.S. joining that Normandy Format. Is there any reconsideration of U.S. doing so?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think it’s a question of us joining the format. The question is whether it’s useful for us to try to facilitate things, to support it in any way that we can. If the answer to that is yes, we’re fully prepared to do that, and we’ve said – of course, share that with our allies and partners France and Germany, but we’ve also said that to Russia, and of course, to Ukraine.
QUESTION: The U.S. National Security Advisor recently said that if Russia wants Nord Stream to start operating, it will have to stop aggression in Ukraine. Is the United States ready to accept the completion and activation of the pipeline for Russia to withdraw troops from the borders?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we continue to oppose the pipeline for reasons that are well known and are long known. We think that it actually undermines Europe’s energy security. It obviously does tremendous potential damage to Ukraine including giving Russia the option to avoid the existing pipeline through Ukraine that results in a lot of transit fees for Ukraine, and the list goes on.
Having said that, the pipeline is actually complete. The construction has been completed. It’s not operational. And to Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor’s point, right now, that pipeline is as much if not more leverage for us as it is for Russia, because the idea that if Russia commits renewed aggression against Ukraine, gas would flow through that pipeline, is highly, highly improbable. So that’s an interesting factor to see whether it affects Russia’s thinking as it’s deciding what to do.
QUESTION: And I have two questions on the domestic agenda – Ukraine domestic agenda, if I may. The President Zelenskyy promised President Biden personally to fight corruption. He promised to appoint a special anticorruption prosecutor before the end of 2021. However, many Ukrainians argue that there is sabotage of anticorruption reforms. Is the United States, as a Ukraine strategic partner, satisfied with the reform progress in Ukraine? And is Ukraine at risk of losing the U.S. support if the government does not meet its commitment to reform agenda?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I had a chance to spend time with President Zelenskyy today. We had a very good conversation about virtually all of these issues, including the question of reform. And President Zelenskyy has been pursuing reform, including most recently judicial reform. But there are other things that need to happen, including finally the appointment of this commissioner that should and could take place anytime, so we are looking to that to see that happen. It’s challenging. There are external pressures, there are internal pressures, but he has been on the path of reform.
And ultimately, Ukraine’s progress, which we are determined to support, is contingent on reform. So we look to the president to continue that – those efforts. We very much support him in those efforts and we’ll continue to support Ukraine as it makes those efforts.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. They are showing me that I have to cut. I have one more question, though. One more, please, one more question.
Across from this building where we are going – doing this interview today, right, on the hearing – in the court hearing on treason charges brought against the former President Poroshenko, many experts and former (inaudible) politicians expressed their concern, and some say the charges are politically motivated. Do you think these charges and the progress of – and the process is justified at the time of looming war?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I can’t get into the details of this particular case. What I can say is this: It’s very important that in any proceeding, whether it’s this one or any other, that things go forward, it’s through an independent judiciary pursuant to the rule of law, and, as we would say, without fear or favor, no selective prosecutions. That’s a general rule that we would apply anywhere and everywhere.
Second, this is a time I think where there’s a premium on national unity precisely because of the threat that Russia is posing. And it’s important for Ukrainians to come together whatever political differences they may have. One of Russia’s methods is to try to divide, to create divisions, to create distractions, and it’s important for Ukrainians to come together to resist that and to deal with the challenge posed by Russia as one – as one country with an incredible future that the United States strongly supports, but one that’s being challenged.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, because I would be escorted from this room. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Laughter.) Thank you. Good to be with you again.
QUESTION: Good to be here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thanks very much.
US Embassy in Georgia
The Foreign Ministers of the Associated Trio have met with the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for an EconomyFriday, 25 June 2021 14:25
The Foreign Minister of the Associated Trio – Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine met with the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for an Economy, Valdis Dombrovskis.
During the meeting the parties discussed the significance of the establishment of the Associated Trio and its future goals, namely in terms of European Integration and coordinating in terms of common goals, by developing cooperation with the EU, including in terms of establishing sectoral dialogue on economic and trade issues.
Foreign media about coronavirus, On the issue of US military biolaboratories: Who will be the victims of Americans on Armenian soil?
Author: Sergey Shakariants
The problem of Americans opening military biolabs in post-Soviet countries has probably been known since at least 2013-14. Besides, we are talking not only about the CIS member states, but also about Ukraine and Georgia, which left the CIS a long time ago.
The US Central Reference Laboratories (CRLs), to which smaller zonal stations are added, have been operating in Ukraine since 2010, in Georgia since 2011, and in Kazakhstan since 2015. Canada tried to create a CRL in Kyrgyzstan. Here we explain: Reference laboratories are set up by national health authorities to diagnose particularly dangerous infections and prevent their spread. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan are also involved in separate cooperation programs with the United States.
Naturally, the US states that the operation of these facilities is for civil purposes only. All facilities are funded by the US Department of Defense. At the same time, their value is significantly higher than the usual costs incurred by such civil agencies. So there is every reason to think that there might be expensive dual-purpose devices out there. Number of employees - from 50 to 250 people significantly exceeds the number of staff required for the service of civil automated laboratories with declared goals.
The system of laboratory complexes located on the perimeter of the borders of Russia, China and Iran will potentially allow the Pentagon to solve many tasks. For example, the ability to gather information on territorial microorganisms to develop a new generation of highly effective offensive biological weapons against the People's Republic of China, Iran and Russia.
Since 2016, the Armenian public has also sounded the alarm. The fact is that in a short period of time, from April 6, 2016 (!) To July 13-14 of the same year, in this small republic, the Americans opened three reference laboratories with funding from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). First in Ijevan, in the center of the Taush (border) region, then in the capital Yerevan, in the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia, and finally in Gyumri, called the "Center for Disease Control and Prevention". It should also be noted that for the current 2017 year, the Americans and their supporters in Armenia plan to open similar centers in the Lori, Gegarkunix and Syunik regions, which will be connected to the Central Yerevan laboratory. In short, the US has decided to have and control six (!!!) military bio-laboratories in Armenia only.
On July 13, 2016, with the help of the US Threat Reduction Agency, another reference laboratory was opened in the Avan district of Yerevan. The opening was attended by DTRA Division Director Elizabeth George. According to Dr. Elizabeth George, $ 4.1 million has been invested in the complete construction of the Particularly Dangerous Pathogens Reference Laboratory of the Food Safety Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia. The US government has spent $ 9.8 million to renovate the reference laboratory of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia. An additional 1.7 million. Dollars were issued to purchase equipment and furniture. One day later, on July 14, 2016, in Gyumri, Shirak Marz, the opening ceremony of the Shirak Regional Laboratory - National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia was held with the participation of Elizabeth George, Director of DTRA Division and local government representatives. The U.S. government has spent $2.7 million on renovations to the Gyumri laboratory, with an additional $340,000 to purchase furniture and appliances. Why does the US have such an insistent interest in Armenia in terms of its program to build military bio-facilities? One of the answers can be seen on the surface: during the Soviet period, Armenia was deservedly considered one of the leaders of the Soviet microbiological science. The many strains that are kept here are truly unique.
An additional suspicion is that the laboratories operate in a closed mode, are staffed by foreign military personnel and representatives of the local health sector often do not have direct access to them. Either military personnel loyal to Washington or special services representatives are being appointed as leaders. Given the "specificity" of the appointment of law enforcement officials in Armenia, which has been in place since 2016, any researcher can expect that the law enforcement agencies of the republic, including the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia, will deliberately turn a blind eye to any activities of US laboratories. Even the actions of the staff of these biolaboratories objectively pose a direct threat to the security of Armenia and the health of its own population. However, even if the Americans do not "conduct experiments" on Armenians - The list of threats is still extensive for Armenian citizens. Overseas laboratory complexes as a whole provide an opportunity for U.S. military specialists to test the results of their biological research in areas close to potential adversaries (e.g., to investigate the virulence, pathways, and other properties of dangerous pathogens). If nothing else, Americans are also experimenting with infecting the population with mild diseases in their own country. We have reason to assume that they can not refrain from field approbation of new ideas in this field in post-Soviet countries, or - in their neighboring countries. For Armenia, it is, first of all, Iran. After all, Americans in Georgia and Azerbaijan have "local" reference laboratories. The situation allows the US to bypass any legal restrictions. Overseas medical centers allow the U.S. military to conduct biological manipulations beyond the borders of the national territory, thus avoiding public outcry and the consequences of violating U.S. law, without, of course, access to foreign inspections. So the results of Soviet military-biological programs are becoming available to Americans. I think it is unnecessary to ask - why. Understandably, not for peaceful purposes or with the desire to "fight the growing threat of bioterrorism".
Aik Aivazian, head of the "Lui" (Yerevan) Information-Analytical Center, repeatedly pointed out in 2016-2017 that US military biolaboratories in Armenia have a dual, sometimes even triple purpose, given the amount of funding and the fact that Americans plan to have six such facilities in a limited, yet high seismic hazard area. Aik Aivazian and Public Club "People's Voice" expert Arman Gukasyan have repeatedly stressed that they might not worry about receiving outstanding "American assistance" to Armenia in such a difficult and delicate area as the selfless care of the current US ruling elite for the development and well-being of the 3 million citizens of Armenia, most of the listed threats are considered fictitious, but such a position is hindered by numerous "buts"! To begin with, the influential American NGO Political Project "New American Century" (operating in Washington from 1997 to 2006. Influenced by the ideology and military policy of the George W. Bush administration) in 2000 program documents indicated that improved species of biological weapons Having the ability to influence a particular genotype, they can shift bio-weapons from the realm of terror to the realm of useful political tools.
In addition to the above, there are many other strange "peculiarities" in Armenia. On April 26, 2017, following a series of media publications, in response to a question from news.am, the US Embassy in Armenia commented on a publication about reference laboratories opened in the country with funding from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In its comments, the US Embassy did not provide any evidence that denied the dual purpose of these laboratories. The so-called "denial" contained only two videos of reference labs commissioned by the Americans themselves. As claimed by A. Aivazian and A. Gukasyan this year, their own analysis of the possible goals of the existence of US Pentagon reference laboratories in Armenia was conducted. The US Department of Defense has allocated about $15.5 million to set up a reference laboratory in Yerevan, $18 million in total.
It is unclear who is giving - in this case, who is guaranteeing the security of the three already existing and six US bio-military facilities in perspective. Leaks of deadly diseases from American laboratories have been repeatedly reported in the United States itself. Let's remember the case of sending Siberian ulcer to the U.S. in 2001, or the leak of Siberian ulcer and bird flu samples from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DiseaseControlandPrevention, CDC). Who will the US blame if all of a sudden, dangerous pathogens "accidentally" leak from Armenian laboratories? The guard, the lab worker who "forgot" to close the tube tightly or someone else?
All this is not exaggerated in the slightest - no one should be accused of any kind of prejudice against its goals in the field of biolaboratories in the territory of the US and the former USSR. The generosity which the US sponsors biolabs in Armenia with is tense - and this is still mentioned very lightly. Of course, representatives of the US Embassy, as well as the above-mentioned Armenian and US agencies, have repeatedly stated that the activities of the laboratories "have nothing to do with geopolitical problems". As stated by the representatives of the Ministry of Health at the end of last year, Armenia is located in a region where "there is a high migration and a high probability that diseases will enter the republic". In accordance with its international obligations, Armenia must detect and respond to these threats in a timely manner, stopping their spread inside and outside the country. Laboratories are of a research nature and are committed to resolving this issue. The Armenian side also notes that "the laboratory will not have a dual purpose because the country has committed itself to reducing the risks of biological weapons proliferation". Similar comments were made by the US Embassy in Yerevan in late April. He said that they are proud of cooperating with the Government of Armenia and providing assistance to the citizens of the country, guaranteeing the health of agricultural animals, financing the repair and construction of modern laboratories. This strengthens the government's ability to publicly monitor potential health threats to humans and farm animals and to prevent dangerous disease epidemics.
But why are there no serious reactions - neither in Armenia nor in other republics? The fact is that the assessments of experts on the danger of these facilities are still quite measured, which they explain by the lack of complete information. According to Babkena Pipoyan (Yerevan), the head of the non-governmental organization "Informed and Protected User", in theory, the existence of reference laboratories on the territory of Armenia may lead to various problems and dangers. "We understand that the laboratory is not a hidden object. And the risks, if any, are known to the special services, the Armenian government and Russia, as a strategic partner of Armenia. Of course, Russia does not like the establishment of laboratories by the United States in Armenia, but I think the Armenian side made appropriate arguments when discussing the issue with its Russian colleagues", Pipoyan said. But he seems to be ignoring the fact that the construction of reference laboratories involves the transfer of all those strains stored in the collection of viruses to American side. All of these laboratories are operated solely by the U.S. Department of Defense. The construction of laboratories as part of biohazard management projects will enable the United States to fully control the biological condition of both the relevant post-Soviet countries and the territories of its transboundary neighbors. Every virologist knows the rule: there is only one step from studying a bacterium to creating a bacteriological weapon. At the same time, US-created biolaboratories are out of the control of the governments of the countries in which they are located. Laboratories operate in closed mode. Laboratory staff, made up exclusively of Americans, have diplomatic immunity, and local civil health officials do not have direct access to these facilities. The number of laboratory workers ranges from 50 to 250, which is significantly more than the number of staff required to service automated civilian laboratories with declared purposes. To cite the Indonesian example of 2010, the expulsion of such an American biolaboratory is unfortunately an unfulfilled dream for ordinary citizens of Armenia, as the current government knows what is happening in the world, specifically around Armenia, Artsakh,but still in 2013-2017, the US The policy goes directly to aid. The Armenian government either does not really know or does not seem to have heard the statement of Jeffrey Silverman, a former adviser to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, in an interview with "Georgia and the World": Bypassing US Laboratories for the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons Creates order. "Lugar Laboratory is located next to the airport. It will not take long to load the bomb or transfer the viruses from there to other facilities," he said, referring to the functions and tasks of the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Georgia. I'll remind you that the Americans spent $300 million to create this laboratory. But a number of data from Armenia show that in recent years the government of the Republic has been supporting the United States in this, at least, strange activity. Year 2010 - Agreement with the Pentagon on cooperation in the field of technology for the production of biological weapons, the spread of pathogens and the prevention of testing, in the framework of the "Reduction of Biological Threats" program. The US Embassy in Armenia has established an Office to Support the Implementation of the Biological Threat Reduction Program. The company Black & Veatch has been involved in the implementation of DTRA programs since 2011, the CWEP program is operating. ISTC (USA) opened its branches in Yerevan, provided financial assistance for the material and technical support of several dozen projects.
In 2015, the Pentagon provided the Armenian Border Service with a device to control the circulation of weapons of mass destruction. The Armenian Ministries of Emergency Situations, Health and Agriculture have received the necessary special facilities from the US in case of a pandemic. The officials of these agencies were trained on American standards for the detection, diagnosis and prevention of dangerous infectious diseases of natural and man-made origin. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched its EpiInfo software at the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Armenia. What would you say, "Everything is fine, beautiful Marquise?" No and no. According to materials of press conference held by the Public Club "People's Voice" in mid-June 2017 in Yerevan, "after the statement of the representative of the US Embassy, where he said that the activities of the given laboratories are open to the general public, the members of the public club decided to visit the mentioned laboratories and get acquainted with their activities on the spot. Activists wondered why the Pentagon funded the laboratory, why there was no agreement between the Armenian and US military agencies, why the laboratories were located in densely populated areas, and next to kindergartens and squares? Unfortunately, as experts say, the visit to the laboratory's main office did not answer any of the questions raised, which further aggravates the suspicion". As it turns out, the experts of "People's Voice" did not even enter the laboratories - they were limited to admission to the technical office.
This confirmed that the Americans are not going to report to anyone in Armenia on what US citizens are doing in the military biolaboratories in Yerevan, Gyumri and Ijevan. As the head of "People's Voice" A. Gukasyan states that he's planning to send a letter to the Organization US Ambassador R. Mills containing "specific questions and requests". "Studying the experience of neighboring Georgia, we see that money was spent on the construction of similar laboratories, which is several times more than the amount needed to finance such civil facilities." - Says the representative of the club Tsovinar Kostanian. In his view, you can't doubt this fact, because there is a danger that pathogens stored in these laboratories may in the future be used to create biological weapons that will be developed based on the genotype and biological characteristics of a given nation or region. "It is inadmissible for such important facilities to be under the control and expense of a foreign state. The Pentagon has already spent $18 million on setting up similar laboratories in Armenia. We are sure that if the laboratories are funded by the military, the set tasks will be completely military", he said. The Pentagon has spent more than $1 billion in recent years building 400 biolabs around the world. As a result of cooperation with the US, the less affluent countries of the former USSR, instead of actually preventing the spread of dangerous viruses, have adopted closed agencies in their territories that are not accountable to the government. Given the above, we have every reason to believe that US military-biological activity in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, CIS countries and other post-Soviet space countries, including Armenia, poses a threat to their national interests and the health and safety of the population. Not to mention that this threat will increase if the US decides to launch a bio-military strike on Russia, China and Iran from their territory.The reaction of these countries cannot be apriori predictable. And if so, joint precautionary measures are needed.
Printed from the newspaper "Erkramas": http//yerkramas.org
Foreign media about coronavirus, The United States has acknowledged the existence of secret biological laboratories in Ukraine
The US Embassy in Ukraine has officially acknowledged for the first time the existence of American biological laboratories in the country that are conducting tests on viruses. Such was the reaction of diplomats to the statement of MPs Renat Kuzmin and Viktor Medvedchuk of the Verkhovna Rada "Opposition Platform for Life" on April 14. The lawmakers sent a request to Vladimir Zelensky to confirm the deployment of at least 15 American biological laboratories in Ukraine, which are supervised by the US Department of Defense, according to the publication "Country".
The three-page appeal included a request to justify the existence of such laboratories, which operate in complete isolation from the public and are controlled by the Pentagon.
In the appeal, the authors argue that during the work of American laboratories in Ukraine from time to time there were outbreaks of unknown and various diseases that caused lethal consequences. According to the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, virus strains were periodically leaked from laboratories at that time for one reason or another.
What specific lethal consequences are we talking about? The document states that as early as 11 years ago, a virus of unknown origin appeared in Ternopil, causing hemorrhagic pneumonia: 450 Ukrainians died. Cholera broke out in Ukraine in 2011 - 33 people died. In 2014, 800 Ukrainians became infected with cholera. In January 2016, 20 soldiers died of the flu-like virus in Kharkov, and 200 people were taken to hospital. Two months later, 364 fatalities were reported in the country. According to MPs, the cause of all deaths was swine flu with the same flu strain that caused the 2009 global pandemic.
The appeal states that the laboratory began operations in August 2005, during Yushchenko's presidency, was discontinued during Yanukovych's term, and resumed during Poroshenko's presidency. The idea of the need to activate the activities of such laboratories on the territory of Ukraine was actively lobbied by the Minister of Health of Ukraine in 2016-2019 Uliana Suprun. Deputies also named a completely astronomical sum - $ 2.1 billion, which was allocated by Washington for "biological experiments" around the world. This amount was spent on the accounts of the American "Threat Reduction Agency", which in turn allocates funds for the project in Ukraine.
This activity was also joined by the "Scientific-Technical Center in Ukraine" - an international scientific-industrial association established in 1993. The center is funded by the US government and its staff have diplomatic immunity, which is considered an exception in the practice of international law. "This organization is financing projects to create weapons of mass destruction," wrote members of the Verkhovna Rada. In addition to Ukraine and the United States, the organization includes the European Union, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan.
The Zelensky administration ignored this demand, and the Americans preferred to attend: they tried to convince the Ukrainian public that the work of the laboratory was carried out solely for scientific purposes and was of a peaceful nature. At the same time, the embassy did not forget to start searching for the "Moscow hand" again and said that the information in the appeal was "Russian disinformation".
"Our joint efforts are helping to ensure that dangerous pathogens do not fall into foreign hands. We are proud to work with the Ministry of Health, the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service of Ukraine, the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences and the Ministry of Defense," the US diplomats said. Not a word is said that the project is under the full patronage of the Pentagon. As "Country" notes, the United States has more than 400 bacteriological laboratories worldwide. 15 of them are in Ukraine. Three are located in Lviv and near Kiev, the rest in Odessa, Vinnytsia, Uzhgorod, Kherson, Ternopil, as well as in the Kiev-controlled areas directly near Crimea and Lugansk. Some of them received between $ 1 million and $ 2 million for the tests. Journalists of the edition managed to gain access to the archives of the State Department website and find out the details of the agreement reached between Ukraine and the United States, which was signed on August 29, 2005. The agreement was signed by the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. Under the agreement, Kiev undertook to send copies of dangerous pathogens to the Pentagon, which would be obtained as a result of research in Ukrainian laboratories. At the same time, the Ukrainian side should have kept the secret regime and in no case disclosed its activities, did not answer any questions from politicians and the public.
Finally, labs were required to "minimize the number of people working with restricted access information." According to Odessa journalist Yuri Tkachev, these studies can be called dual-purpose studies: on the one hand, they are really important in terms of assessing the risk of spreading this or that disease and developing recommendations to combat it. "On the other hand, the results of the research may be used to create bacteriological weapons for use in this or that region," Tkachev said.
We would like to remind you that in 2018, the former Minister of State Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze presented a series of documentary materials on the activities of the American Lugar Laboratory in Georgia, which gained scandalous popularity, at a press conference in Moscow. The center was named in honor of the famous Russophobe, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who died last year. Giorgadze noted that the facility was fully funded by the United States, and Georgia's property rights were only a cover. This secret unit was supervised by the Pentagon with the support of the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. The laboratory was located near the Georgian settlement of Alekseevka near Tbilisi, ostensibly to fight the hepatitis C epidemic in those areas. Rumors of experiments on humans and mysterious deaths of locals in the American laboratory have been circulating since 2010. Giorgadze presented to the public a series of confidential materials on the activities of the laboratory, which confirm the "unreasonable mortality" of the local population. The population was allegedly injected with drugs - "Harvol" and "Sovaldi", which were produced by the American company "Gileod". Ex-minister sources managed to obtain documents confirming the deaths of 181 people during the vaccine test. However, 20 of the dead were buried without any dissection and conclusion of forensic medical experts. Igor Kirilov, the commander of the Army of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Forces of the Russian Federation, said at the time that the center had tested a toxic chemical drug for the local population in the treatment of hepatitis C. Giorgadze addressed President Trump, a 108 Western human rights and humanitarian organization. No response was received from any of the instances.
Printed from the website: https://rg.ru/2020/04/24/ssha-priznali-nalichie-na-ukraine-sekretnyh-biologicheskih-laboratorij.html
Foreign media about coronavirus, Biological weapons near the Russian border
The Russian Federation is seriously concerned about the activities of biological laboratories in Georgia and Ukraine, where foreign military biologists, mainly representatives of the Pentagon, are conducting secret experiments. US-created facilities are located too close to our borders. Alexander Lukashevich, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, shared this concern with the members of the OSCE Permanent Council on June 11.
Lukashevich drew the attention of the participants to the activities of the dual-purpose bio-epidemiological laboratories established by the United States in the OSCE area. In particular, he touched upon the military-biological activity of foreign specialists in Georgia, mainly at the base of the Lugar Center in the Alekseevka settlement near Tbilisi. As well as the activities of more than 10 similar facilities operating on the territory of Ukraine.
According to the Russian diplomat, the construction, financing and operation of these laboratories is carried out by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the US Department of Defense, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and several other Pentagon-affiliated medical organizations.
"Judging by the information leaked to the media, closed experiments are being conducted in Georgian and Ukrainian biolaboratories to fight infectious diseases using particularly dangerous pathogens, including those that cause the plague and hemorrhagic fever."
Particular attention is paid to the study of mutant forms, modification of viruses and enhancement of their contagiosity (transmission). Of concern are reports of suspicious drug experiments conducted by US military doctors on Georgian trials, as well as the collection of human biomass for some "research purposes," Lukashevich said. He said Moscow saw this as a failure by the United States to meet its commitments in biotechnology research and development as set out in the 1986 summary document of the Vienna Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Until January 1, 1995, this was the name of the OSCE.
"Experiments conducted by foreign military biologists on Russia's borders are of legitimate concern to us, including in the context of the implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. "Especially in the light of the fact that for two decades the United States has been blocking efforts to develop and adopt a protocol with a legally binding, effective verification mechanism for the Convention," he said.
He also said that instead of explaining the goals of U.S. military-biological activity in border states, Washington often referred only to the Pentagon's seemingly "highly humane cover-up." In practice, he persuades the Kremlin to trust the White House, as they say.
Some Ukrainian politicians are also concerned about the uncontrolled attempts of the transoceanic virus creators with shoulder straps.
The Ukrainian weekly socio-political magazine "Correspondent" revealed the secrets of American biolabs to its readers late last month.
The late May issue reported that the news agency "Українські новини" has published an official response to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on the activities of bacteriological laboratories built or modernized in Ukraine under a contract with the US Department of Defense. The reply to the Ministry of Health states that "the terms of the contract provided assistance to Ukraine to prevent the spread of technology, pathogens and knowledge to" facilities "that may be used in the development of biological weapons."
But neither in the Soviet period, nor from the moment of the declaration of independence until the signing of the contract with the Pentagon, biological weapons were developed or tested. And lo and behold, America is offering assistance to facilities "that could be used to build biological weapons." According to the "correspondent", the Pentagon considers these facilities as manufacturers of biological weapons. It is simply impossible to draw any other conclusion. The only question is, according to the magazine, who actually produces such weapons - Kiev or Washington.
The edition notes that the US Department of Defense program, according to which biolaboratories were built or modernized in Ukraine, does not mention any similar structures of the country's military and none of the regional divisions of the Central Sanitary-Epidemiological Division of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. It also indicates that the United States refused to sign an international protocol in 2001 that would have recognized 33 microorganisms as potential agents of biological weapons, as State Department experts considered Article 37 in the document to be "inconsistent with US national security interests."
An official response from the Ministry of Health states that eight biological laboratories have been built under the auspices of the DTRA in the Vinnytsia, Dnepropetrovsk, Zakarpattia, Lviv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Ternopil regions, as well as in the Crimean Republican Laboratory Center. It is also mentioned that the program under which these institutions were built was closed in 2014. However, according to media reports, the program was renewed in 2016, according to a memorandum signed between the Ministry of European Integration of Ukraine and the American company Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp. It was also announced that the goal of the joint venture is to involve Ukrainian laboratories in a unified electronic integrated disease monitoring system. According to the press, the registration card of the project already contains information on 13 objects. It also states that the aim of the project is to stop the spread of pathogens for the development of biological weapons, as well as "to expand the national network of diagnostic laboratories that work on particularly dangerous infections."
In late May, members of the Verkhovna Rada from the Opposition Platform for Life (OPS) party, Viktor Medvedev and Renat Kuzmin filed a formal complaint with the UN Human Rights Council alleging illegal activities of US biolaboratories in Ukraine. Kuzmin also wrote about it on his Facebook page and posted the text of the document. "Apart from the betrayal of national interests, what else can be explained by the fact that the Ukrainian authorities are hiding information about the secret experiments carried out by US military biologists in Ukraine?" Why should this information be secret for the Ukrainian people? Why do American military biologists, sheltered by diplomatic immunity, allow us to do what is forbidden to them? "Why are the Ukrainian authorities refusing to investigate the many cases of bacteriological infection and death of the Ukrainian population in the areas where American bacteriological laboratories are located?" The Ukrainian MP wrote that the party "Opposition Platform - for Life" has not received answers to these questions from the Ukrainian authorities. He was therefore forced to formally apply to the UN.
This is not the first time MPs from the Opposition Platform for Life party have raised the issue of American laboratories. In mid-April, a question about the labs was sent to President Vladimir Zelensky. In particular, it demanded an explanation of the legal norms under which these organizations operate in Ukraine and how their work is regulated.
The main problem in the current situation is that the Ukrainian government has no tools to control the activities of these laboratories. The current government is not independent and is guided by the curators of the US Embassy. This explains the attempt of the party "Opposition Platform - for Life" to find support for the relevant investigation in the UN.
In 2018, the world press published the results of the investigation of the Bulgarian journalist Diliana Gaitanjieva about the US military research program in different countries. He told readers about the Richard Lugar Public Health Center, which opened under the DTRA program in 2011 near Tbilisi International Airport.This third-degree biosecurity biolab is only available to U.S. specialists who have the right to work with classified information. According to official data, the center is engaged in research on biological hazards. Its specialists will study bioagents, viral diseases and collect biological samples for future experiments.
According to specialists, since 2014, when the laboratory was equipped with special equipment for breeding insects and the implementation of projects to collect, study and test for their level of infection, atypical cases of various diseases have been observed in Georgia.
Former Minister of State Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze said at the end of 2018 that he had documents at his disposal that confirmed that dangerous experiments were being conducted at the research center. He also called on US President Donald Trump to investigate the activities of the laboratory. Georgia has called the allegations "absurd" and Moscow has said it is seeking US documents on the lab. On May 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation issued a comment stating that the Russian Federation expects an answer from Georgia regarding the entry of Russian specialists in the center of Lugar and expressed concern over the lack of information on the activities of the laboratory. Russia insists on "guaranteeing access to all the buildings of the laboratory," including those occupied by American specialists. Only in this way can a real review of the Centre's activities be provided and determine "the true direction of the work carried out by US military biologists near the Russian border."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia states that Lugar Laboratory belongs entirely to Georgia. "The Lugar Center with all its equipment is completely transferred to the ownership of the Government of Georgia, and from 2018 the Lugar Center and the laboratory network are fully funded by the Government of Georgia. "Structurally, the Lugar Center is a subset of the Centers for Disease Control and is part of the Georgian Ministry of Health," the statement said, noting that US specialists "do not have the ability to conduct any research independently."
Nevertheless, such statements need careful verification. Especially when it comes to such a sensitive threat to Russia's national security near its borders.
It should be noted that after the collapse of the USSR, US biolabs were also set up in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Moldova. The number of laboratories set up on the perimeter of the Russian border is growing every year. Only American specialists have access to them and the results of the research. Local scientists and technicians are prohibited from entering buildings where particularly important and secret research is conducted.
The global coronavirus pandemic has not only paralyzed economic activity around the world, but has also revealed a large number of socio-political problems in many countries. Political scandals related to the existence of US military bio laboratories have erupted because of coronavirus in countries such as Armenia, Ukraine and South Korea. Recent protests in Armenia and Ukraine have again called for the closure of US military bio laboratories operating in the country. In their demands, the speakers expressed concern that the new US testing viruses in these laboratories posed a deadly threat to both the country's population and the environment. That's why the protesters demanded the immediate closure of American bio laboratories.
Russian researcher Victoria Popova wrote in her article "American Bio-Laboratories in Armenia: Wonders of Multi-Vectorism" as early as 2017 that the entire network operates in Armenia - 12 bio-laboratories created or modernized with US military money under its Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP). In turn, it is part of the US Joint Program on Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP). Three of them are in Yerevan: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Food Service, and the Infectious Diseases Clinical Hospital "Nork". There are regional laboratories at the black plague prevention stations in Ijevan, Gyumri, Martuni, Sisian, Artashat, Vanadzor and other places. The scandal erupted in Armenia after 14 employees of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) and the country's Ministry of Health became infected with the coronavirus. The party "Armenian Eagles - United Armenia" recently demanded the liquidation of all US sub-bio laboratories in the country within two months from Prime Minister N. Pashinian. A scandal is occurring in Ukraine over the activities of 11 American bio laboratories in the country. A few years ago, the media reported that American bio laboratories had been set up in Ukraine, but this information failed to gain attention. This time, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the opposition demanded that the government explain what is happening on the secret facilities.
Two lead deputies of the "Opposition Platform for Life" - Viktor Medvechuk and Renat Kuzmin (Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine in the past), have publicly called on the Ukrainian authorities to provide information on the activities of US bio laboratories.
"Independent Military Review" reviewer Vladimir Ivanov writes that after the collapse of the USSR, US bio laboratories were also set up in CIS countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and others. Only American specialists have access to them and the results of their research. Local scientists and technical staff are not allowed to enter the areas where the most important and secret surveys are conducted.
Foreign media has reported on the escalation of inter-Korean relations these days. One reason for this is the existence of American bio laboratories in South Korea. North Korea has once again requested the closure of US military bio laboratories in South Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, for several years has accused United States of preparing the start of a biochemical war. As early as 2018, according to "RIA Novosti", the Democratic People's Republic of Korea accused the United States of preparing for a biochemical war on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang's suspicions were linked to a US-South Korean program to set up a network of military biochemical laboratories, which also researches poisonous substances. It should be noted that with the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in South Korea, the protest of citizens has intensified due to the presence of American biochemical laboratories in the country. Protestants have demanded the closure of American biochemical laboratories in South Korea because they pose a major threat to both the country's population and South Korea's ecological security. South Koreans still remember well how the U.S. admitted in 2015 that it mistakenly sent live Anthrax to private laboratories in South Korea. The head of the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, personally apologized to the South Korean Minister of Defense, Han Min-Goo, for this.
Badri Nachkebia, Political scientist,
Doctor of History
Expert-consultant of several leading universities abroad
(Information is prepared based on internet materials)
For much of the month, the coronavirus crisis and the ongoing conflict with Russia were both temporarily overshadowed by a spate of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone that generated lurid international headlines and plunged Kyiv into apocalyptic gloom. These blazes exposed Ukraine’s unpreparedness for such emergencies and served as a grim warning of what may lie ahead during the long summer months in a country parched by an abnormally warm winter season that saw record high temperatures and virtually no snow.
When news of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone first started to emerge in the days following April 4, it took more than a week for it to become a hot topic on Ukrainian social media (no pun intended). With most Ukrainians already stuck at home in the fourth week of coronavirus quarantine, images began spreading of woodland blazes along with satellite maps indicating proximity to the infamous atomic energy plant. For many in nearby Kyiv, the fires brought back memories of the 1986 nuclear disaster and sparked fears of a new atomic threat as acres of radioactive woodland went up in flames.
When the wind changed direction and began blowing directly towards Kyiv, a dense and ominous smog almost completely enveloped the sprawling Ukrainian capital. With trademark gallows humor, some Ukrainians likened the grim scenes to the advent of a biblical plague and wondered whether the River Dnipro would soon turn red. The accompanying air pollution, however, was no laughing matter. By the middle of April, Kyiv had risen to first place among the world’s most polluted cities according to global air pollution ranking IQAir.
Kyiv’s scores of 380 and 429 on April 16-17 were more than double the pollution levels registered in Indian capital Delhi and other cities more traditionally associated with chronically poor air quality.
The Ukrainian Health Ministry responded to the smoky scenes by issuing somewhat redundant guidelines for Kyiv’s already quarantined residents to remain indoors and close their windows. While the smoke shrouding the city posed obvious health risks, authorities were quick to downplay fears of a radiation threat. Officials from Ukraine’s State Emergency Service assured that radiation levels remained within the normal range everywhere except for the areas closest to the fires inside the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone itself. These claims were corroborated by numerous independent third parties monitoring the situation including tour guide Kateryna Aslamova, who was taking radiation readings in Kyiv’s picturesque riverside Podil district at the height of the wildfires on April 15.
Ukrainians were quick to praise the efforts of the firefighters working in the Chornobyl Zone, but there was also concern over an apparent lack of sufficient manpower and equipment to extinguish the blazes. Since the forest fires first began, head of Chornobyl Tour Yaroslav Yemelianenko led calls for the authorities to take stronger action. He also became involved in a volunteer drive to support the firefighters, working with the Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators to deliver much-needed provisions. According to Yemelianenko, the April 2020 blazes were the largest in the history of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. He said the severity of the wildfires underlined the need for a serious and comprehensive government response.
The global brand recognition that Chornobyl continues to enjoy meant April’s fires generated a flurry of international media coverage. Ukraine’s leaders were somewhat slower to react.
President Zelenskyy did not address the situation publicly until the tenth day of the fires following reports that the blaze was rapidly approaching the site of the former atomic energy plant. At around the same time, the Ukrainian parliament voted to significantly increase fines and penalties for anyone caught burning vegetation or breaching forest fire regulations. Meanwhile, sixteen days after the fires first began, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the launch of an operation to combat arson in the region’s woodlands.
The exact cause of the fires remains undetermined. Some have been quick to suggest that the fires may have been started deliberately in order to create a new front in Russia’s ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine and further destabilize the situation in the country. Others have pointed the finger at more mundane arson. The widespread practice of burning crop stubble and other vegetation is the most possible contributing factor.
While the debate continues over the causes of the wildfires, the consequences are already all too clear. Yemelianenko says the impact of the recent blazes has been disastrous for nature, history and tourism. All three are deeply intertwined. In the 34 years since the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone was largely abandoned following the April 1986 nuclear disaster, it has become home to a unique collection of wildlife and fauna. This thriving ecosystem is now in grave danger.
Denys Vyshnevskiy of the Chornobyl Biosphere Reserve says valuable plant life and many smaller species may have been lost in the recent fires, which left large areas of woodland devastated.
The fragmentary nature of the blazes gives reason to hope that some animals survived, with larger species including the zone’s rare Przewalski’s wild horses along with wolves and bears managing to flee.
The ecologist argues that fires pose an unacceptable threat to the future of the zone not only because of the physical damage done to the forest, but because of the potential to cause spikes in radiation.
The Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators is now raising money for firefighters and residents in and around the Exclusion Zone who lost their homes in the fires. With international interest in Chornobyl tourism currently at record highs thanks to the global success of HBO’s 2019 TV miniseries “Chernobyl”, it is hoped that routes can be adapted and restored to enable the continued expansion of the local tourism industry despite recent damage.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Ukraine is currently ill-equipped to deal with major forest fires. This is particularly alarming given the extremely dry conditions throughout the country. The Ukrainian authorities would be well advised to learn the lessons of April’s Chornobyl fires and prepare for more of the same during the coming months. Government officials should also follow up on recent EU offers to provide international assistance in combating future forest wildfires.
This article was first published by the Atlantic Council
On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine’s fight against coronavirus. Although we don’t know what will happen next, something in Ukraine’s reaction to the virus deserves a second look.
On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine's fight against coronavirus. At this point, the country has been hit less by the virus than many other countries in Europe have. It does not even enter the top-30 in terms of the number of cases detected; its total death toll just passed 100 (with the daily toll mostly ranging between 5 and 10), compared to over 20,000 in the US, close to 20,000 in Spain, Italy and France, or over 3,000 in Germany.
Although we don't know what will happen next, something in Ukraine's reaction to the virus deserves a second look. The key thing: the country was incredibly fast to introduce a strict quarantine. It was introduced on March 11 when only 1 (!) case was detected. Ukraine closed its borders in mid-March, when the number of reported cases was below 10, with just 1 person dead from the virus.
This early action can be explained simply: Ukrainians are afraid of threats. They are used to them, they face them too often, and understand that sometimes you need to act quickly. Ukrainians enjoy little feeling of protection, a high feeling of a security vacuum and often prefer to act too early instead of too late.
Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, one of Ukraine's most wide-thinking intellectuals, likes to repeat that Ukrainians are perhaps the world's champions in survival. Security and safety values are those which Ukrainians share regardless of their region and which cross language, identity, religion and economic discrepancies.
According to World Values Survey's regular reports, Ukraine remains high in rational values, compared to traditionalist values; but low in terms of self-expression values, and much more inclined towards survival values. This means that Ukrainians, although more rational than we think them to be, will rather choose survival than development.
This is understandable given the peculiarities of Ukraine's history. Ukraine lost about 4 million people in Stalin's artificial famine in 1932-1933; about 1 million died in both the famines of the early 1920s and 1946-47. During World War II its population was reduced by a quarter: about 10 million people, of whom 3-4 million people died as Red Army soldiers; and out of 6 million Holocaust victims, 1 million come from Ukraine. Millions were also victims of the Soviet GULAG, as the Ukrainian intelligentsia was practically annihilated in the 1930s, and many prominent dissidents were sent to the GULAG after Khrushchev's short-lived Ottepel.
Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, and practically everyday news about deaths on the frontline ever since, merely added to this major feeling of insecurity that penetrates Ukrainian society. Add to this not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also recent forest fires in the Chornobyl area, during which Ukrainian society lived in fear that nuclear waste stores in the area would be affected.
The security vacuum is both external and internal. From outside as Ukraine lacks a security umbrella enjoyed (at least theoretically) by NATO member states, and from inside, as a Ukrainian citizen often sees law-enforcement services as an additional threat rather than protection.
There is a Ukrainian proverb that says it is better to overestimate a threat than to underestimate it. This was the logic behind the strict quarantine that was introduced so early.
Curiously, it is religion that could provoke spiraling in the number of coronavirus cases. Even more curiously, it comes from the Russian church in Ukraine (UPC-MP). Earlier, its Archbishop Pavel, head of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said that "one should not be afraid of" the epidemic and that the faithful should "hurry to church and hug one another". Not surprisingly, Lavra became one of the hot spots of the virus in Kyiv. Just recently, Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UPC-MP, said its churches will hold Easter Sunday services on 19 April -- contrary to quarantine measures and to calls made by other churches (including the newly-established Ukrainian autocephalous church) to stay home. If church attendance is not limited, crowds of people will go to churches on Easter Sunday and face huge risks of virus infection.
What happens this Sunday will also be a test as to how rational Ukrainians are, and whether survival instincts are strong enough to keep them at home.
However, if the security mindset succeeds, it might pose a global question for the future. Namely, should security logic dominate over liberty logic? Should "liberal" openness be victimized and blamed for the pandemic?
It is already being blamed by neo-authoritarian actors who see the pandemic as an additional argument to blame democracy and openness. It is increasingly used by Russian propaganda against the democratic world. With the coronavirus pandemic we are entering a new global debate, where liberal democracy will be brutally attacked.
In this situation, it is important that countries and communities make a clear distinction: more security does not mean less democracy. Limitations of freedom are tolerable when necessary for public health and public safety, but not as a tool to solve all other problems.
The need for a balance between security and freedom, which was stressed by many thinkers in Ukraine over recent years, needs to be real. A balance where freedom is the necessary and unavoidable pole, and security is regarded as the tool to protect our lives and our key values -- including freedom itself.
This material was first published by Ukraine Verstehen