Moscow’s claims about US-controlled bioweapons labs in Ukraine are an “embarrassment,” scientists from Russia told Newsweek, debunking the conspiracy theory that had been doing rounds over the past few days.

Russia had earlier claimed that bioweapons labs under the Pentagon’s control in Ukraine had been carrying out a clandestine military-biological programme involving plague, anthrax, tularemia, and cholera, and presented documents as supposed evidence for the same. The claims were also echoed by top Russian military officials.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya subsequently amplified Moscow’s claims at the international stage by raising the issue with the UN, but the Security Council called the claims “utter nonsense.”

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Now, a group of 10 scientists, many of them Russian, has publicly accused the Russian government of lying, Newsweek reported in an exclusive.

The scientists, from Russia, France, Bulgaria, and Latvia, conducted an assessment of the documents that Russia touted as evidence, and concluded that the development of bioweapons would require “a much larger base of strains than those listed” in the documents provided by Moscow.

Olga Pettersson, a Latvian and Swedish citizen and a genome sequencing expert who was part of the aforementioned group of 10 scientists told Newsweek, “When I read what Lavrov was saying, it was such stupidity and as a professional, I just could not let it slide. If they had any tangible proof, they would not have put those particular documents as an open source because those documents, they prove jack.”

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“It was such an utter embarrassment of Russia to put such a claim openly, based on those particular papers. For a scientist, that was such a ridiculous accusation, such a ridiculous notion,” Petterson added.

Petterson’s comments corroborated the accusations made in an open letter published on Facebook by Russian scientist Eugene Lewitin, a biologist who graduated from the Moscow State University.

Lewitin harshly criticised Russian media’s coverage of the claims, saying, “Stop the false propaganda based on misinformation and hatred.”