The Armenian media are spreading information that activation of the deadly virus H1N1 in the Caucasus and the deaths of more than 10 people from swine flue in Armenia (one person died of the disease in Georgia) are connected with activity in the suburbs of Tbilisi by the biological laboratory named after US Senator Richard Lugar. According to actively cited “experts”, the lab “creates biological weapons and holds experiments on people and animals.” The Deputy Head of the National Center for Control of Diseases and Public Health, Paata Imnadze, had to comment on the messages, as the Center supervised the laboratory: “It is nonsense, a lack of knowledge, and lies. Such unprofessional articles are often published on unserious websites.”
Imnadze says that the spread of swine flu in Armenia started earlier and more intensively than in Georgia: “We are seeing a growth in the number of cases only today; we haven’t reached an epidemic situation yet, when 500 people out of 100 thousand people are sick. Fortunately, we haven’t reached even a half of that number.” Imnadze stressed that the Lagur Laboratory remained an open institute for professionals, but it was impossible to make it a facility for excursions: “Russian scientists also work in our lab. There are not only Americans, but also Germans, Turks, Armenians and Azerbaijanis. We don’t hide anything. Journalists of a Russian TV-channel have recently visited the lab. The institute is accredited by the World Organization of Healthcare, and WHO missions inspect the lab all the time,” Imnadze said.
The laboratory was built in 2007. It has been in the focus of the media many times. It was founded by the American senator Richard Lugar, according to the Georgian-American Agreement on Cooperation in the Sphere of Nonproliferation of Technologies, Pathogens and Experience Connected with the Development of Biological Weapons. The lab’s goal is monitoring of dangerous viruses among the population and animals, as well as epidemic monitoring and scientific research.
The institute was opened in 2011. The academic basis of the new center was the Laboratory of Virus Science of the well-known in Soviet times Tbilisi Institute of Bacterial Viruses. The area of Lugar Laboratory is 8 ha. Eight of the fifty scientists who work there are Americans. The US invested $150 million into providing four research projects. The lab also carries out field studies, having 20 offices in all regions of Georgia. The US finances the work of such laboratories not only in its country, but also in other countries, including Egypt, Kenya and Thailand, trying to take preventive steps against viruses on the cutting edges, before they turn into pandemics and spread to the US. Experienced experts have doubts that the Americans can create biological weapons in such research centers. It is dangerous not only for their image, but also practically, as terrorists may get biological weapons easier than nuclear weapons.
When Mikheil Saakashvili was the president of Georgia, the National Center for Control of Diseases and Public Health was headed by a former employee of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Georgia, Anna Zhvania. The former president did his best to make the center as mysterious as possible, exaggerating its importance and turning it into confirmation of the cooperation with the US in such a delicate sphere. However, in the summer of 2013 the Georgian authorities made a significant decision to put the laboratory under the control of the National Center for Control of Public Health within the process of improving relations with Moscow (the US biological lab concerned Russia). Therefore, the Lugar Laboratory lost its independent status and had to follow various international conventions with both Russian and Armenian participants. This was done in order to rule out any possibility of speculations or guesses. However, recent events show that this hasn’t worked.