Tulsi Gabbard Clarifies Ukraine Bio Labs Remarks After Widespread Outrage

Former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has clarified her comments about bio labs in Ukraine after she was accused of lending credibility to Russian propaganda.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful responded to the fierce criticism she has received for a video about the threat of Moscow targeting "U.S.-funded bio labs" in Ukraine and spreading "deadly pathogens."

Gabbard's video, posted on March 13, was accused of echoing false claims made by the Kremlin to justify its invasion of Ukraine—that the country is housing labs funded by the U.S. military that are developing chemical or biological weapons.

The former Hawaii congresswoman also recently told Fox News' Tucker Carlson that she was "deeply concerned" over claims about biological weapons in Ukraine.

On Twitter, Gabbard explained that she doesn't believe there are biological weapons labs or biological weapons in Ukraine—as Russia would have it—but was expressing concern about the fact that there are labs researching pathogens in an active warzone.

She suggested that there might have been some "miscommunication and misunderstanding" about the terms bio labs and bio weapons labs.

"'Biolabs' are facilities which contain and experiment with dangerous pathogens, ostensibly for the purpose of serving the public good (i.e. vaccines, etc.). 'Biological weapons labs' are facilities which exist for the purpose of turning pathogens into weapons so they can be used against an enemy (i.e. 'bioweapons')," Gabbard tweeted.

She added that the danger of pathogens being released from bio labs in Ukraine was "very real," saying: "We need to take action immediately to prevent an impending catastrophe."

Gabbard's comments came after the the World Health Organization advised Kyiv to destroy high-threat pathogens being stored in their labs to prevent any possibility of a dangerous outbreak if the facilities are attacked by Russia.

Although there are bio labs in Ukraine researching deadly pathogens in order to prevent the production of weapons capable of being used in germ warfare, or studying how to respond to outbreaks such as COVID-19, there is no evidence that they are being used to manufacture biological weapons.

The Department of Defense confirmed earlier this month that the U.S. has invested $200 million in Ukraine since 2005 to support 46 Ukrainian laboratories and their research into disease threats as part of the Biological Threat Reduction Program, which involves former Soviet Union countries.

However, these labs are owned, operated and managed by Ukraine.

Gabbard was accused of being a "traitor" and a "Russian asset" for her initial remarks about bio labs.

Senator Mitt Romney made some of the harshest criticisms, accusing Gabbard of "parroting false Russian propaganda" and suggesting her "treasonous lies may well cost lives."

In response, Gabbard called on Romney to resign unless he could back up his comments.

"You've called me a treasonous liar simply for stating the fact that there are over 25 U.S.-funded bio labs in Ukraine, which, if breached, would release and spread deadly pathogens across the United States and the world," Gabbard said in a video posted on Twitter on Monday.

"Now, bizarrely, you claim that securing these labs or even calling for securing these labs is treasonous and will lead to a loss of life, when the exact opposite is obviously true.

"Senator Romney, please provide evidence that what I've said is not true and treasonous. And if you cannot, you should do the honorable thing. Apologize, resign from the U.S. Senate."

Newsweek has contacted Senator Romney for comment.

 Tulsi Gabbard biolabs
Tulsi Gabbard is interviewed at the U.S. Capitol on January 9, 2020. The former Democratic congresswoman has posted a Twitter thread about securing biological labs in Ukraine. Alex Wong/Getty Images