Biological warfare polygon

Biological warfare polygon

What does the Georgian Lugar Center do?

Among the 25 countries where there are biological laboratories funded by the US military department (Pentagon), there is also Georgia. The center named after Senator Richard Lugar (Lugar Center) is located on the outskirts of Tbilisi, 17 kilometers from the American Vaziani military airbase (US Vaziani military airbase).

The laboratory is staffed primarily by military biologists from the Medical Research Unit (Georgia) of the U.S. Army (US Army Medical Research Unit-Georgia – USAMRU-G), as well as civilian specialists working under contract. These specialists are also US citizens who have passed a special check and received the necessary access to secret developments. In accordance with the US-Georgia Agreement on defense cooperation of 2002 (2002 US-Georgia Agreement on defense cooperation), employees of the Lugar Center enjoy diplomatic immunity.

This research center has a high, "third level" of biological protection (Bio-safety Level 3 Laboratory) and, according to leaks in the American press, is engaged in developments within the areas of biological weapons (anthrax, tularimia), viral diseases (e.g., Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever). Biological material is also being collected there for future experiments.

Like other similar biological laboratories located in the post-Soviet space, in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa, The Lugar Center is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) through the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP), the total budget of which is $2.1 billion.

At the same time, it should be noted that funding is not provided directly, but through private companies and foundations that are not accountable to the US Congress. In practice, this takes the laboratories out from the area of American law. And the fact that all employees of the centers have diplomatic immunity means that they are also outside the legal field of Georgia, whose authorities are unable to control their activities.

Three American companies are directly connected with the Lugar Center – CH2M Hill, Battelle and Metabiota. Their employees also take part in its work. In this regard, it should be clarified that in addition to the Pentagon, other American federal departments, in particular, the CIA, also work with these companies.

Briefly about DTRA contractors. CH2M Hill participates in biolab programs located in Georgia, Uganda, Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia. The total amount of their financing is about $341.5 million. Of this amount, the Lugar center receives almost half of the funds - $ 161.1 million. In addition to financing the project, CH2M Hill is supplying various drugs and reagents necessary for the work of biologists, as well as recruiting staff with experience in the field of biological weapons.

Among them are employees of another, more advanced American company, the Battelle Memorial Institute, whose experience of cooperation with the Pentagon dates back to 1952.

This company works with biolabs created and operated by DTRA located in Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Uganda, Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. Battelle conducts research, development and testing of both highly toxic chemicals and pathogenic microbes and viruses for a number of US federal agencies. The company earned about $2 billion on federal contracts and ranked 23rd among the 100 main contractors of the US government.

For example, in 1997 and 2000, the Battelle Memorial Institute was involved in research conducted by the CIA to study and test the spread of anthrax bacilli for its use as a bacteriological weapon. It is noteworthy that this project, called “Project Clear Vision”, was not included in the US reports on the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention, which were provided to the UN.

In addition to conducting research and experiments at the Georgian Lugar Center, Battelle participates on an ongoing basis in the work carried out at the Pentagon's top secret research center at Fort Detrick, where, in particular, it is engaged in the genetic modification of pathogenic bacteria and viruses in order to turn them into biological weapons.

Metabiota Inc. can be said to be the junior partner in this trio dealing with the Lugar Center, for the first time publicly lit up as a DTRA contractor when the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa. In 2012-2015, the company's specialists worked in Sierra Leone, one of the epicenters of the disease. The US Military Department allocated $3.1 million for this program.

However, there has been no information about any significant achievements of American virologists in terms of controlling the spread of the disease. However, some time after the completion of the work of Metabiota specialists in Africa, information leaked in some American media with reference to African sources that they were engaged not so much in providing assistance in the affected areas as in collecting biomaterials, searching for infectious agents and studying how Ebola spreads. In this regard, it should be noted that this information has not been officially confirmed or denied by the company.

Before returning to the research that was conducted at the Lugar Center, we note that in the terminology of the US military there is the concept of "entomological warfare", which is a kind of biological warfare when insects are used to spread diseases.

In 2014, equipments was delivered to the Center, which makes it possible to conduct research work with insects. In 2014-2015, female Phlebotomine sand fly were collected and work began, the tasks of which remain classified.

However, as of 2015 to the present, these insects, which are rare in urban conditions, have spread in Tbilisi on a permanent basis, dwelling mostly in bathrooms. At the same time, the behavior of the insects was different from the usual. Thus, the distribution season of these flies in Georgia is relatively short (from June to September). Now they live in apartments all year round. In addition, this new flies show resistance to cold, surviving at sub-zero temperatures. The body after the bites of these insects began to become covered with a rash.

The distribution area of these insects has also expanded, which first included the border regions of Dagestan with Georgia, and then the northern territories of Turkey.

It should be noted that insects belonging to the phlebotomine fly are carriers of dangerous parasites that are in their saliva and are transmitted to humans by insect bites. It is believed that the interest of American biological weapons specialists in these flies is precisely the disease that they spread. The fact is that in 2003, during the US invasion of Iraq, American soldiers, after several bites by sand flies, fell ill with Leishmaniasis (a disease common in Iraq and Afghanistan). In the absence of the necessary treatment, this led to death.

In addition, it is known that even after the official ban on the program, US military biologists continue to conduct research on the possibility of using sand flies and mosquitoes to spread Rift Valley Virus, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis – viruses that are considered as possible biological weapons.

In this regard, it should not be surprising that mosquitoes and fleas are also subjects of study at the Lugar Center in preparation for the "entomological war". Tropical mosquito Aedes Albopictus was also discovered in 2014 (beginning of experiments with insects) in Western Georgia, where it never existed, and then it appeared in the Krasnodar Territory and Turkey.

Under the leadership of the company Metabiota, the Center also works with anthrax and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Moreover, according to some reports, studies on fever may be conducted on humans. In this regard, there has been an unprovoked outbreak of the disease in some regions of the republic. And although local authorities claimed that the infection came from domestic animals, veterinary checks denied this version: all animals were healthy.