What's In Blue

Posted Tue 5 Apr 2022

Arria-formula Meeting on “Threats to International Peace and Security Emanating from Military Biological Activities in Regions Across the Globe”

Tomorrow morning (6 April), Russia will organise an Arria-formula meeting titled “Threats to international peace and security emanating from military biological activities in regions across the globe”. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) is expected to deliver opening and closing remarks. The expected briefers are Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, a Bulgarian investigative journalist, and Arkadiy Mamontov, a Russian TV journalist. The meeting will take place in the ECOSOC chamber and will be open to representatives of all UN member states and the media. Contingent on approval by Security Council members, the event will be broadcast on UN TV at 10 am EST.

According to the concept note prepared by Russia, the meeting aims to facilitate an exchange of views on the challenges posed by military biological activities and their implications for international peace and security. Among other objectives listed in the concept note, the meeting intends to provide an opportunity for independent researchers and experts to present their findings on military biological activities throughout the world that violate the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It will also serve as a platform for member states to explore ways to strengthen the BWC regime and develop recommendations on eliminating threats resulting from military biological activities.

While the stated objective of the meeting is to address the wider issue of the threat posed by biological weapons to international peace and security, most of the discussion will likely focus on alleged biological military activities in Ukraine. To date, Russia has initiated two formal meetings at the Security Council on this issue (on 11 and 18 March) and one meeting under “any other business” on 22 March. Briefing the Council during the 11 and 18 March meetings, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said that the UN is not aware of any biological weapons programmes in Ukraine. She emphasised that both Ukraine and Russia are parties to the BWC, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons.

Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy (Russia) announced Russia’s intention to hold tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting during a 1 April press stakeout. In his remarks, Polyanskiy repeated Russia’s claims that it has discovered evidence of a military biological programme in Ukraine which, it alleges, is sponsored by the US Department of State. During the Security Council meetings on this issue, the US has categorically denied these accusations. Polyanskiy also claimed that Russia had evidence indicating that Ukraine had tried to gain access to technical means to deliver bioweapons. He alleged that these activities on the Ukrainian territory pose a serious threat to the biological security of Russia and the wider region.

Many Council members have been sceptical of Russia’s claims. Some Council members—including Albania, France and the US—have expressed concern that Russia is using disinformation tactics as a pretext for possibly using biological or chemical weapons against Ukrainians. Russia has rejected these accusations and argued instead that “Ukrainian nationalists” have brought chemical agents to some regions in Ukraine to “create a provocation and then blame Russia for it”. China has been supportive of Moscow’s position, stressing that Russia’s concerns about biological weapons in Ukraine deserve the Council’s attention and must be addressed.

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