Just few months after Russia dropped embargo on Georgian wines and mineral waters, its chief sanitary doctor warned that presence of the U.S.-funded bio lab in Tbilisi would have “sharply limiting effect” on bilateral trade ties.
Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s state consumer protection agency RosPotrebNadzor, which ordered ban on import of Georgian products to Russia in 2006, told Interfax news agency on July 20 that the laboratory represents “a powerful offensive potential.”
“Russia deems it to be a direct violation of BWC [Biological Weapons Convention],” Onishchenko was quoted by Interfax.
Russian Foreign Ministry’s July 19 statement, released in rebuttal of the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on arms control and nonproliferation, contains what might be a reference to the U.S.-funded biological research laboratory in Tbilisi outskirts. The Russian MFA’s statement says: “Biological-related activities of the U.S. Department of Defense close to the Russian borders also cause our serious concern.”
Onishchenko also told Interfax on July 20: “With the broadening of contacts and shipments of Georgian wines and agriculture products into Russia, our alarm over presence on the Georgian territory of the powerful laboratory of the U.S. Navy, which is out of the Georgian authorities’ control, will be more and more increasing.”
“RosPotrebNadzor notes with satisfaction the positive development of relations with the Georgian side over resumption of economic ties. Soon shipments of the Georgian wines into Russia will reach one million liters. But the presence on the Georgian territory of the military laboratory of the U.S. Navy will have sharply limiting effect,” Onishchenko said.
The U.S. has invested USD 150 million in the state-of-the-art lab, which was named after former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and which, according to the Georgian and U.S. officials, aims at protecting public and animal health through dangerous pathogens detection and epidemiological surveillance. The Richard G Lugar Center for Public Health Research is part of the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said in early May, when he toured the lab together with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili: “This is a Georgian facility and control now is moving to the Georgian authorities, who will be managing this [facility] in cooperation and partnership with experts from the United States.”
“This facility has the regional significance. This is the state-of-the-art facility unlike anything in almost any country in the region,” Ambassador Norland said on May 8 and that the facility was open for participation by experts “from anywhere in this region.”
“This is an open invitation to participate in this state-of-the-art scientific facility,” the U.S. Ambassador said.