U.S., allies slam Russia for wasting U.N. Security Council time

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States and allies slammed Russia on Thursday for wasting the time of the U.N. Security Council and spreading conspiracies by again raising its accusation that the United States has "military biological programs" in Ukraine.

"How much more of this nonsense do we have to endure?" Britain's U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward asked the council.

Russia has previously raised at least twice at the Security Council the issue of biological weapons programs in Ukraine. The United States and Ukraine have said they do not have biological weapons programs.

Russia is now pushing for a formal inquiry. It has drafted a Security Council resolution to set up a commission, made up of all 15 council members, to investigate its claims. Such a move is possible - but has never been invoked - under the Biological Weapons Convention, which took effect in 1975.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield described Russia's accusations as "pure fabrications brought forth without a shred of evidence."

U.N. disarmament officials have long said they are not aware of any biological weapons programs in Ukraine. Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24 and President Vladimir Putin showed no regrets on Thursday about the eight-month-long war.

"Do you really think that we're that naive?" Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council as he argued for a commission to investigate the biological weapons claims.

"Do you really think that we think that the Pentagon is going to inform the high representative of the Office of Disarmament Affairs within the U.N. about their secret biological programs in Ukraine?" he said.

It was not immediately clear when Russia would put the draft resolution to a vote. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass. Western diplomats said Russia's move would likely fail.

Thomas-Greenfield said there are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories supported by Washington. She noted that Ukraine - like many countries - has a public health laboratory infrastructure to protect itself from infectious diseases.

She told the council: "This meeting is a colossal waste of time ... an attempt to distract from the atrocities Russian forces are carrying out in Ukraine and a desperate tactic to justify an unjustifiable war."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)