Russia Could Use Chemical or Biological Weapons in Ukraine, Psaki Says

Following days of Russia and China accusing the United States of having secret biological weapons projects in Ukraine and claiming to have found evidence of the projects, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the world should be prepared if Russia uses its claims as an excuse to release a chemical or biological weapon of its own in Ukraine.

"Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It's a clear pattern," Psaki said in a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon.

Claims from Russian officials that have circulated on social media have accused the U.S. of having "biolabs" studying harmful weapons or diseases in Ukraine for years before Russia's invasion began, which led to a Snopes fact check late last month that identified the claims as false.

The State Department also issued a statement refuting the Russian claims on Wednesday afternoon, calling them "disinformation" and "total nonsense."

"Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement. "These tactics are an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attacks on Ukraine. We fully expect Russia to continue to double down on these sorts of claims with further unfounded allegations."

In June 2018, Russian authorities issued a statement accusing the U.S. of planning a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, with the alleged intention to use the "false flag" attack as motivation to increase military involvement in the country. Months prior, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had accused the U.S. and Britain of working with rebels to stage a chemical attack, which was perpetrated by government forces, in order to justify a subsequent series of airstrikes.

Last summer, a Russian diplomat also said that an international chemical weapons watchdog could not be trusted and was biased after it reported over a dozen cases of chemical weapons allegations against Syria's government were "likely or definitely true."

Another popular related theory among QAnon conspiracy theorists, and led by prominent Russian-backed accounts, has claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the invasion into Ukraine, along with support from former President Donald Trump, to attack U.S. bioweapon labs in Ukraine run by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci became a prominent figure in several conspiracy theories over the course of the pandemic, with many finding ways to blame the doctor with decades of government and medical experience for the pandemic.

"This is preposterous. It's the kind of disinformation operation we've seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent," Psaki said in another tweet regarding the bioweapon lab accusations.

Update 3/9/22 6:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

Jen Psaki Russia Ukraine Biological Weapons
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon that she would not be surprised if Russia uses its claims of US bioweapons in Ukraine as an excuse to release one of its own. Above, Psaki answers questions during the daily briefing on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images