The Lugar Laboratory – the beloved target of Russian propaganda

Narrative

Lugar laboratory has been a target for anti-Western disinformation since its inauguration. It is perceived as a symbol of the Georgian and American partnership and is frequently exploited by the pro-Kremlin media to fuel conspiracies, fake news, confusion, and fear concerning its activity. The pro-Kremlin media integrate the laboratory in the broader conspiracy about the WHO, Bill Gates and mandatory vaccination considering the fact the laboratory works according to the recommendations of the WHO. The star of the fake narratives about the laboratory in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic is that the virus originated in the Lugar laboratory, along with the classic narrative that it has in possession dangerous pathogens and viruses, and experiments on humans and animals are being conducted there.


Coronavirus did not originate in China! Hello, Lugar Lab!
Source: ge.news-front.info

Dissemination

Pro-Kremlin media

The pro-Kremlin news outlet vesti.ru published an article in 2018 under the title “Biological weapons: Americans do experiments on people in Georgia”. The article presented the investigation of the Russian Ministry of Defence which concluded that the laboratory built in honour of the Senator Richard Lugar is a “death factory”. This narrative re-emerged in the news distribution pro-Russian network in the margins of the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, the pro-Kremlin local media outlet Georgia and the World integrated this narrative in their new COVID-19 coverages.

Pro-Kremlin local media


Lugar laboratory will always be the subject of confrontation. It will cause tensions between Russia and Georgia
Source: Geworld.ge

Georgia and the World has been publishing an extensive set of articles that tackle the Lugar laboratory subject. They point out the secret character of the centre and present the worries of the Russian authorities who have expressed frequently their interest to visit and investigate the laboratory. To gain more “legitimacy” about their doubts, the pro-Kremlin media quote U.S. journalists that doubt the moral activity of the laboratory. For instance, Jeffrey Silverman mentioned:

“The Lugar Laboratory is situated near the airport in order to transfer faster bombs or viruses to various objects from where the Lugar Laboratory is located.”

Newsfront.ge, an information agency that “objectively” covers events in Russia, the Donbass, Ukraine and the Balkans, Syria, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Moldova, published an article in Georgian that explored the possibility that the Covid-19 might have originated in the U.S. in one if its laboratories and associated it with the Lugar laboratory. As a fact-base of the article, the author used statements of Chinese diplomats and a Vox.com article about leaked pathogens from the American laboratories.

Who is threatened by the Lugar bio-laboratory in Georgia: viruses or people?
Source: news-front.info

Separatist authorities

According to the Mythdetector.ge, the local KGB in the separatist region of South Ossetia revealed data about the tasks of the Lugar laboratory which follows the directives of the US Army. Thus, the laboratory works on producing a biological weapon aimed at reducing the population of the separatist region. One of the goals is to make sure that the South Ossetia region is completely dependent on Georgia and on Western medications. Security authorities of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia urged people not to give in to any proposals from the Georgian part to participate in medical investigations. Authorities are promoting the story that the activity of the Lugar laboratory is harmful and seeks to spread the coronavirus among South Ossetians.

Additionally, the pro-Kremlin news agency Sputnik-ossetia.ru published an article on the 9th of June 2020 to avoid contacting with relatives from Georgia who “inquire insistently about the sanitary and epidemiological situation in South Ossetia”.


The KGB of the South Ossetia revealed data about the tasks of the Lugar biolaboratory in Georgia
Source: Sputnik-ossetia.ru

Public figures

The narrative has been endorsed by Vladimir Putin too. In a speech at the Valdai club in Sochi, the president of Russia inferred that he refrains from assessing the reliability of the information that biological weapons may be developed in the Lugar laboratory. However, he stressed that if it is true, then it is very dangerous, as what is manufactured there can influence people depending on the national group they belong to.

Target

Narratives are targeted at the pro-Russian and, complementary, anti-Western audiences. They are also promoted in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and are intended to intensify anti-Georgia attitudes and deepen the faults between the regions. The Eu vs. Disinfo team researched the impact of the fake narratives about the Lugar laboratory to sew discord and confusion in the society and presented that 20% of Georgians believe that the Lugar laboratory produces the virus.

Disproof

According to factcheck.ge, the laboratory conducts epidemiological and laboratory supervision of infectious and non-infectious diseases, as well as the timely detection and research of disease cases, epidemiological outbreaks and other threats to public health situations. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the laboratory proved to be of high importance as it allowed timely to detect the disease. Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director of the National Centre for Disease Control, explained that Russia is the only country having questions about the Laboratory which has political aims in this regard, while Paata Imnadze, the Head of the Lugar Laboratory and the Deputy Director of the National Centre for Disease Control, has stated multiple times that “Russia deliberately circulates disinformation” about the Lugar Laboratory.
Mythdetector.ge explained that the Georgian authorities, through international partners, have been offering medical services and equipment to residents of occupied regions. State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, calls the statement the so-called KGB of South Ossetia “absurd” and states that assistance to the occupied territories is provided mainly with the help of international organizations, both in terms of information, assistance and local expertise, as well as in the diagnosis and management of quarantined persons in controlled territory.