Azerbaijan’s defense ministry has denied allegations made by one of the top executives at Russia’s defense ministry who said that the Pentagon was reconstructing clandestine military biological laboratories in Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
“There are no laboratories controlled by another state on the territory of Azerbaijan,” the press office told RIA Novosti.
Russian Major General Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defense Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, said in a press briefing in Moscow on Thursday that the United States has launched an extensive military-biological program in territories adjacent to Russia.
Kirillov pointed mostly at Georgia, a western neighbor of Azerbaijan also in the South Caucasus region, blaming Tbilisi for allowing the U.S. to store ammunitions for chemical and biological weapons. However, he took shots at others, including Azerbaijan.
“Vigorous activity [by the U.S.] has been launched on the territory of the countries adjacent to Russia, where the Pentagon-controlled laboratories also function. Reconstruction of laboratory buildings continues in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan,” Kirillov said, according to TASS.
"Many of them are in countries neighboring Russia and China, being a permanent source of biological threats to our countries," he added, according to Xinhua.
Kirillov said Washington is consistently increasing its biological potential and control over national collections of pathogenic microorganisms in certain areas, including in the post-Soviet space, which includes Azerbaijan. He characterized this as Washington’s breach of international obligations considering international efforts to ban biological and toxic weapons.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control treaty meant to outlaw the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their precursors, has been in force in Azerbaijan since 2000. As of May, 193 countries, representing over 98 percent of the world's population, are party to the convention. Countries not on board include Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon immediately denounced Kirillov’s allegations, lambasting them as, “an invention of the imaginative and false Russian disinformation campaign against the West” and “obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia’s bad behavior on many fronts.”
Baku has a history of publicly denouncing the use of chemical weapons as Azerbaijanis have been victims of their use, notably in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenia.
In May of 2016, the Military Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal case in connection with the use of white phosphorus – an internationally banned substance that causes skin to melt away from the bone and can break down a victim's jawbone – by Armenia’s military against civilians in the area during a clash between the two countries’ armies in early April. A 122-millimeter ordnance consisting of white phosphorus was detected in the village of Askipara of Azerbaijan’s Tartar district, located along the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops, following mortar shelling on civilians.
Early during the Syrian civil war, when the town of Ghouta suffered strikes by rockets that were reportedly containing sarin, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry issued a statement slamming the use of chemical weapons and offered to help find a solution to the crisis that began in 2011.