Biological occupation of Armenia
An outbreak of measles has been recorded in Armenia for the first time since 2007. Experts fear that the cause of the spread of the disease is dangerous research conducted in secret biological laboratories under the patronage of the Pentagon.
The history of the penetration of American specialists into Armenia began after the collapse of the USSR. The former Soviet Republic, which was one of the leaders of the microbiological science of the USSR, inherited a huge legacy and opportunities to study especially dangerous microorganisms and methods of combating them. The USA did not hide their desire to gain access to the repositories of microbial cultures (about 14,000 strains of scientific and industrial significance). Most of all, they were attracted by developments in identifying and combating the spread of particularly dangerous infections in the Caucasus region.
Since the mid-90s, the United States has gained full control over the Armenian epidemiological databases. The country has introduced the Epi info information system developed by the Americans to collect epidemiological information. Employees of Armenian research institutes were attracted by grants. The main customers of the research were Western foundations.
The process accelerated in 2008, when Armenia began cooperation with the US Department of Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Yerevan has joined the Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP), which is part of the defense Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) with a total budget of more than $2 billion. This implied the opening of American biological laboratories in the country.
By a certain coincidence, the issue of creating a network of these facilities began to be actively discussed against the background of the epidemic of African swine fever (ASF) in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. This virus was imported from Georgia, where American specialists have been working for many years. It provoked an atypical form of the disease and subsequently spread throughout the Caucasus region, including Russia. More than 500 ASF outbreaks were recorded in the Russian Federation, and economic losses exceeded 30 billion rubles. Armenia also faced significant economic damage. In 2007-2008 25 thousand domestic pigs had to be culled. According to a study by specialists of the Institute of Molecular Biology of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, in a few years the disease mutated into a chronic form.
At the same time, the ASF virus is zoonotic, that is, it is transmitted from animals to humans. It is no coincidence that the Pentagon considers it a potential biological weapon. Special attention is paid to ASF, therefore, representatives of the American Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by the Pentagon, took part in the study of the spread of the virus in Armenia in 2017.
In 2009, the first tranche of $9 million was received from the United States for the creation of two laboratories under the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. In September 2010, an agreement was signed on measures to reduce the biological threat, according to which Armenia must transfer samples of dangerous pathogens, as well as epidemiological data, to the United States. In 2011, the State Sanitary-Epidemiological and Veterinary-sanitary surveillance services, at the insistence of the United States, introduced an electronic integrated disease surveillance system (EIDSS) and an electronic pathogenic asset control system (PACS).
The number of American laboratories grew. The Central Sanitary and Epidemiological Laboratory of the Ministry of Health was modernized and renamed the "National Center for Disease Prevention and Control" (NCDC), which became the administrator of the EIDSS and PACS systems in Armenia.
In 2016-2017, NCDC offices were opened in the regions on the basis of former anti-plague stations and work on modernization began. The same thing happened in the field of veterinary medicine, phytosanitary and food safety.
By 2018, the network of laboratories in Armenia included seven facilities, three of which are located in Yerevan — in the NCDC, the State Food Safety Service and the Infectious Clinical Hospital "Nork". Four facilities are in Ijevan (NCDC Regional Laboratory), Gyumri ("Center for Disease Control and Prevention"), Martuni and Vanadzor. By 2020, the number of biolabs has increased to 12. At the same time, facilities where secret studies of pathogens of anthrax, brucellosis, plague, ASF and tularemia are conducted are located near residential areas, near kindergartens, playgrounds and schools.
In addition to Armenian specialists, American scientists representing partners of the Pentagon and the CIA work here. The main one is CH2M Hill. According to the Federal Procurement Website, in Armenia, under a contract until 2019, this company received $6 million from DTRA for staff training and $50 million for the creation of laboratories. CH2M Hill has extensive experience: the company has organized facilities in Georgia, Uganda, Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan and Southeast Asian countries.
Specialists from the Battelle Memorial Institute and Southern Research Institute, subcontractors of Black&Veatch, which operates US biolabs in Ukraine, Germany, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Thailand, Ethiopia and Vietnam, also work in Armenia.
Southern Research Institute has been researching anthrax in the interests of the Pentagon since 2001. Battelle Memorial Institute has been cooperating with the US Department of Defense since 1952 and has been conducting tests using extremely toxic chemicals and pathogenic bioactive substances for government agencies. One of the joint operations of Battelle and the CIA — Clear Vision in 1997 and 2000 . Then scientists reconstructed an anthrax bomb from the Cold War to study the principles of the spread of the virus after the explosion. Since 2006 Battelle operates a biological laboratory at the National Biosecurity and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick in Maryland. This facility is known for its scary experiments. According to NBACC documents, the biological laboratory is evaluating powder spraying technology, studying the threat of aerosol toxins and bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei, which cause melioidosis – acute fever with the most unpleasant consequences.
The activities of the laboratories in Armenia are supervised by the representative of DTRA and an employee of the US Embassy, Major Eric Larsen, who has experience in Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine.
What results does the activity of American bio-facilities in Armenia lead to? Here are some examples. In 2012, the Nork Hospital, with the assistance of Black&Veatch, received equipment for testing anthrax viruses. Soon there was an outbreak of this disease in the country. Only according to the official data of the Ministry of Health, 52 people were infected, there has never been such a thing in Armenia. "Coincidentally, a few weeks later, the Armenian government began receiving reports of patients with symptoms of anthrax from the Geharkunik region in the east of the country. Under the guidance of Black & Veatch specialists, samples were tested at the Nork Infectious Diseases Clinical Hospital using new equipment — ELISA and PCR. The tests were positive. The equipment helped to give accurate results within a few hours. Previously, testing methods were not so reliable and took days," Black & Veatch reported.
In 2014, mosquitoes atypical for the region were recorded in Georgia, Turkey, Krasnodar Krai, and Noyemberyan (on the border of Armenia and Georgia). At the same time, it became known that the Lugar Center in Georgia is engaged in research on a mosquito carrier of tropical fever and the Zika virus, which causes genetic changes in newborns. In 2016, Asian tiger mosquitoes, carriers of dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus, were "bred" in the Tavush region. Cases of infection with tularemia have also been recorded. This disease is another potential bioweapon, whose research in Armenia is paid for by the Pentagon. It affects the musculoskeletal system, nervous, sexual, lymphatic systems and can lead to arthritis, meningitis, encephalitis, pneumonia and infectious and toxic shock. The Pentagon has been seriously considering options for its use against people since the 1980s. In 1981. American experts compared the cost-effectiveness of three scenarios of a possible biological attack on a large city: 16 simultaneous attacks by infected yellow-radish mosquitoes from the ground and air and an aerosol attack with tularemia spraying. They found out that tularemia is the most economical option: if 625 thousand people were killed, each death would cost the Pentagon 29 cents.
DTRA freely disposes of pathogen samples obtained in Armenia, which it exports to Ukraine and Georgia. Employees of American laboratories in these countries are constantly in contact with colleagues from Armenia, conducting joint experiments. In 2015, two genomes of plague bacillus from Armenia were placed at the disposal of a representative of the Military Research Institute named after Walter Reed (WRAIR) in the USA and an employee of the Center named after Lugar Michael Nikolic.
Against the background of the incoming information, Moscow is concerned about the activities of American laboratories in the country, which is a member of the EAEU and the CSTO. At the same time, Russian epidemiologists have not gained access to any of these facilities. "In 2020, for example, when Russian specialists wanted to visit the facilities, the laboratory announced a leak and closed the facility in front of the guests. Cleaned up. The same thing happened in the laboratory. Lugara near Tbilisi — when some material was burned there all night and thrown into the river. The situation was repeated here, in Armenia, in April and June 2020. The laboratory was closed for the day. Although in case of a real leakage of the pathogen, disinfection should last a month, not one day," said Grigor Grigoryan, an international expert on the control of zoonotic diseases and the organization of veterinary health, the leader of the Armenian United Health coalition.
But the US military continues its activities to create biological weapons, even despite the protests of the Armenians themselves. In June 2022, a mass action against American laboratories took place in Yerevan, but this did not affect the operation of the facilities.