Mitt Romney accuses Tulsi Gabbard of ‘treasonous lies’ that ‘may cost lives’ over Russia’s Ukraine invasion

·3-min read

Utah Sen Mitt Romney fiercely criticised former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on Sunday and suggested that her remarks about the existence of so-called “US biolabs” in Ukraine would result in people being killed.

The Republican senator accused his ex-House counterpart, who served as a Democrat but has shifted far to the right since leaving office, of spreading “treasonous lies” that amounted to “Russian propaganda”. His statement came in reference to a video posted by Ms Gabbard that claimed the existence of “25 to 30” US-funded biolabs that she went on to assert “if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens to US/world”.

There are a handful of Ukrainian-run biological threat analysis and defence labs in Ukraine, but there’s no evidence to suggest that they are working on biological weapons as far-right commentators and the Russian government have claimed. It’s also not a certainty that the labs would release dangerous pathogens if damaged in the ongoing conflict, as experts have worked to destroy any dangerous substances on site.

The US and Ukrainian governments have both denied the existence of bioweapons facilities in Ukraine. Ms Gabbard did not assert the existence of bioweapons in Ukraine or anywhere else, but did suggest in her video that the labs contained dangerous pathogens that would be released accidentally if the sites were attacked.

She did, however, expand her criticism to US-funded biomedical research around the world, pointing to the hundreds of research facilities funded by the US to research and cure dangerous diseases. The former congresswoman would go on to claim that all such laboratories were conducting “dangerous research” and should be shut down.

“Now, after realising how dangerous and vulnerable these labs are, they should have all been shut down two years ago,” she claimed.

The Ukrainian government directed all such labs in the country to dispose of any samples of pathogens following the beginning of Russia’s invasion, an action the Department of Defense said “limit[s] the danger of an accidental release of pathogens”.

It wasn’t clear what particular claim that Ms Gabbard was making amounted to what Mr Romney called “false Russian propaganda”.

“Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives,” Mr Romney’s tweet read in full.

The Independent has reached out to the former congresswoman for comment.

While Ms Gabbard did not directly accuse the US of nefarious purposes in funding the labs operated by Ukraine’s government, the narrative plays into the hands of the Russian government, according to US officials, given that the Biden administration has said in recent days that their Russian counterparts are spreading false claims about supposed US-supported manufacturing of bioweapons in Ukraine which US officials say could be pretext to the deployment of chemical or biological weapons by Russia’s military in its bloody onslaught through Ukrainian territory.

Russia’s invasion has already reportedly killed thousands of civilians and US officials are now openly warning that the use of chemical or biological weapons by Moscow would escalate the conflict significantly.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned on Sunday that the Biden administration would make Russia pay a “steep price” if chemical or biological weapons were used in Ukraine, but did not define what specific punishment Moscow would face. The White House has remained firm that US or Nato troops will not be used to defend Ukrainian territory.

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