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Diplomat blasts US sanctions for targeting Russian scientists working on COVID-19 vaccine

Washington has slapped sanctions squarely against those Russian researchers and specialists who are working on the development of a vaccine to fight the coronavirus, said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Friday.

“We find it outrageous that three Russian scientific research institutes have been included on the American blacklist. A particularly disturbing fact is that these sanctions precisely affect those scientists and specialists who for the past couple of months have been tirelessly laboring on the development of a Russian vaccine against COVID-19. It is not clear how the American government is going to explain to its citizens this attempt to punish the people who are working successfully on a remedy against the disease, which has already taken the lives of over 180,000 US citizens,” she noted.

The diplomat stated that these US sanctions may be an instrument of unfair competition. “We don’t believe that this is a step in the right direction in cooperating to fight the pandemic, the importance of which, we think, Washington cannot even deny. Once again one gets the impression that the run-of-the-mill use of sanctions is a tool of pressure to thrust forward one’s own companies’ interests – right now pharmaceutical ones – which mirrors the continued push of its own natural gas into the European market,” she stressed.

The spokeswoman pointed out that Washington has attributed its actions to the fact that the scientific research institutions affected by the sanctions were allegedly involved in chemical and biological weapons programs, but these accusations are not backed by any evidence. She also mentioned that the entire Russian chemical arsenal had been eliminated back in 2017. “This is confirmed by the authorized international structure, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which includes 193 countries, among them the US. Russia continues to conscientiously carry out all of its responsibilities under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” the diplomat added.

Circumvention of international documents

According to the spokeswoman, this decision by the American authorities casts doubt on the effectiveness and professionalism of the OPCW. “Let us reiterate that the CWC clearly indicates the mechanisms used to resolve contentious issues. Unfortunately, Washington for a while now prefers to act not within the framework of international agreements, but at its own discretion,” the diplomat specified.

She pointed out that today the US remains the only member country of the CWC preserving its chemical weapons arsenal.

“Moreover, various inventions are being patented in the US related to the use of full-fledged combat toxic substances, including nerve agents,” she pointed out.

The spokeswoman added that US activity in the biomedical sphere both domestically and abroad is also highly questionable. “There are no grounds to assert that the activity of American biological labs fully complies with the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC),” she continued.

As examples when US laboratories were engulfed in major international scandals, the spokeswoman shed light on the investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in the US, where a Fort Detrick researcher was involved, as well as the activity of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Georgia.

“In order to resolve the issues related to the implementation of the CWC provisions, we consider it necessary to activate the mechanism of Article 5 of the Convention, according to which, member states should consult each other to resolve any issues regarding the CWC. Instead of using the pressure of sanctions, we suggest that the Americans sit down at the negotiating table and discuss all the accumulated issues in a bilateral format,” the diplomat concluded.

Washington’s sanctions

The Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce has blacklisted the Russian Defense Ministry’s Central Research Institutes No. 33 and No. 48 (including its three locations in Sergiev Posad, Yekaterinburg, and the Kirov Region), as well as the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology in Moscow.

The American authorities claim they sanctioned Central Research Institute No. 33 because it is allegedly involved in a “Russian chemical program and a chemical weapons testing facility,” the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, which allegedly participates in Russia’s “chemical weapons program.’

In addition, the US said it blacklisted Central Research Institute No. 48 for allegedly being part of “the Russian biological weapons program.”

Header: In this handout photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund, an employee shows a new vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. Russia on Tuesday, Aug. 11 became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for use in tens of thousands of its citizens despite international skepticism about injections that have not completed clinical trials and were studied in only dozens of people for less than two months. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP)

Source: TASS