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Georgia Ready to Allow Russian Experts to Inspect Lugar Center

CC0 / / Central Public Health Reference Laboratory in Tbilisi, Georgia
Central Public Health Reference Laboratory in Tbilisi, Georgia - Sputnik International
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TBILISI (Sputnik) – The Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) told Sputnik on Friday that it is ready to receive Russian experts to inspect the US-funded Richard Lugar Center for Public Health and Research in Tbilisi, where the Pentagon was, according to Russian claims, running a secret biological weapons laboratory.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the Pentagon was running a secret biological weapons lab at the Lugar Center for Public Health and Research, located outside of Tbilisi. At a press conference on Friday, NCDC Director Amiran Gamkrelidze agreed to a request from a Sputnik correspondent to visit the laboratory, but the center later reversed its decision and refused to allow Russian media to the lab along with the Georgian ones. However, they were finally granted permission to visit it.

"We are always ready to accept Russian experts and any volunteers. Come, have a look and verify there is nothing similar to what they say is happening here," Paata Imnadze, the head of the NCDC scientific council, said.

READ MORE: Russia Says US Boosting Number of Labs Close to It, Pentagon Denies Accusation

Earlier this week, Maj. Gen. Igor Kirillov, the commander of the Russian Armed Forces' Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops, said the United States was using labs in Georgia, including those at the Lugar Center, and tested toxic substances on local residents in attempts to research ways to deliver and unleash biological weapons agents in breach of international accords.

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The Russian side has repeatedly expressed concern about the activities of the Pentagon involving placement of its biomedical labs in close proximity to Russian borders. In 2015, the Russian Foreign Ministry mentioned in this regard the Lugar lab hosting the US Army Medical Department's research unit. Moscow believes that the US and Georgian authorities were trying to hide the true content and focus of the activities of the US Army's unit studying particularly dangerous infectious diseases.

Georgia and the United States have both denied Russia's claims in comments to Sputnik. Georgia’s government envoy for ties with Russia Zurab Abashidze called the allegations absurd, while US Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon said the center was owned and operated by Georgia’s disease control center. Gamkrelidze refuted the claims on Friday as well.

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