UN says it has no mandate to probe biological weapons claims in Ukraine

The UN said on Friday it does not have any mandate to probe the Russian allegations that Ukraine has biological weapons program, as Moscow's war continues on its third week.

Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu reiterated that the UN is not aware of any such biological weapons programs.

"I would also like to note that the United Nations currently has neither the mandate nor the technical or operational capacity to investigate this information," said Nakamitsu.

On March 10, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed it had obtained documents indicating that US-sponsored biological laboratories in Ukraine conducted experiments with bat coronavirus samples.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, for her part, denied the claims, saying there are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories.

"Not near Russia's border, not anywhere. They're only public health facilities proudly supported and recognized by the US government, the World Health Organization, and other governments and international institutions," said the US envoy.

She repeated her accusation against Russia and went on: "In fact, it is Russia that has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law. It is Russia that has a well-documented history of using chemical weapons."

The Russia-Ukraine war, which started on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial restrictions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.

At least 816 civilians have been killed and 1,333 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, the UN said, while noting that figure is probably higher.

More than 3.27 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, said the UN refugee agency.

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