Healthcare/Biosafety

Who Voices Disinformation about Lugar Lab in South Ossetian TV Channel’s Propaganda Film?

9 July, 2020

On July 6, an official Facebook profile of the South Ossetian TV and Radio Company “ИР” run by the occupied region’s government shared a video headlined “Experiments on people in Georgia” in the group with the same name. The video has a caption “What is happening at Lugar Lab.” The media outlet posted an identical video on its YouTube channel as well. Alan Tibilov, former chairman of the occupied region’s State Committee of Information and Press emerges as the author and narrator in the video (update: Tibilov indicates on his Facebook page that he still retains the post; however, noteworthy that presently, the committee is led by Maria Kotaeva).

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The video is designed for the South Ossetian population and echoes Kremlin’s disinformation messages against the Tbilisi-based Lugar Lab. The narrator promotes unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, claiming that dangerous experiments are being carried out at the lab upon the U.S. government’s instructions, while the Georgian government does not listen to its own population and only fulfills the U.S. directives. The narrator refers to three Georgian respondents, portraying their opinions about the Lugar Lab as “the Georgian population’s” position.

Whose opinions are offered by South Ossetian journalist as the position of Georgian society?

The video offers the remarks by three Georgian respondents, among them Alexander Chachia, Valerian Khaburdzania and Vladimir Khomeriki.

  • Alexander Chachia

Alexander Chachia is a Moscow-based political analyst. On February 13, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the Order of Honor to Chachia for “his great contribution to strengthening friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation, development of scientific and cultural ties.” Simultaneously, Chachia is a member of the public board of Istoriuli Memkvidreoba Ltd (Historic Heritage) that issues Georgia and World. The openly pro-Kremlin online media outlet, Georgia and World, is known for spreading anti-Western propaganda and fake news.

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Alexander Chachia claims in the video that the United States has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Lugar Lab, but has no information about its activities. Moreover, Chachia spreads disinformation according to which the United States does not build biological labs on its own territory. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), there are currently 13 operational or planned BSL-4 facilities within the United States of America.

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  • Valerian Khaburdzania

Valerian Khaburdzania, Georgia’s ex-security chief in 2001-2004, also makes comments in the video. The author refers to Khaburdzania to promote the narrative that the United States was interfering in Georgia’s internal affairs, including in the activities of its defense and security agencies. Khaburdzania claims that under his tenure as the Minister, the Americans were involved in unsanctioned activities and were working without providing relevant information to the Ministry.

Valerian Khaburdzania: “I do not want my country to stop existing due to some global, military and political experiments.”

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Myth Detector has already verified Khaburdzania’s earlier anti-Western remarks, according to which Georgian economy had no prospects for development without Russian market, while the Association Agreement would bring no benefits. He also claimed that the United States and the European Union had not rendered any financial assistance to Georgia under his tenure (2001-2004).

  • Vladimir Khomeriki

Vladimir Khomeriki is a businessman, who amassed wealth in Russia. He is the President of the Foundation for the Unity of Russian and Georgian Peoples. Khomeriki believes that Russia has not occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. He claims that Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region following the steps taken by the Georgian government, whereas Russia itself is occupied by Georgians, because over one million Georgian citizens are presently residing in the country. Khomeriki was promoting a well-known conspiracy theory about the Treaty of Kars, according to which the validity of the treaty would expire in 2021 and Russia would no longer be its guarantor. In the video spread by the South Ossetian TV channel, Khomeriki is featuring as “Doctor of Economic Sciences.” He appears twice in the video and promotes conspiracy theories in both instances.

Vladimir Khomeriki: “These labs contain zones, where Georgia has no access … It is nonsense that even modern USA cannot determine the cause of death of Georgians, who, by the way, had also visited this lab. It is obvious that it is a biological weapon.”

Khomeriki is apparently talking about a conspiracy theory regarding the death of Filipino workers who were involved in the construction of the Lugar Lab. The author also recollects the same conspiracy theory. Although this information has long been circulating online, it has no appropriate arguments and justification. Myth Detector reached out to Lugar Lab over this issue in 2018, where we were told that Filipino workers were involved in the construction of the Lugar Laboratory in 2011. Thus, they could not have been infected with a virus spread from the facility that was under construction, as the lab launched functioning only in 2013.

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Other sources used in propaganda video

Besides Russian-affiliated experts, occupied Tskhinvali region’s TV channel also refers to other sources to spread disinformation against the Lugar Lab. The video mainly contains the footage from the film made by Kremlin-affiliated Bulgarian journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva as well as its respondents among others Giorgi Iremadze, head of Georgian Young Eurasians’ Union, who is affiliated with Sputnik and News Front Georgia.

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The author of the video also refers to Jeffrey Silverman and his article published by Geworld.ge as the source. Silverman is one of the key sources for the Kremlin and pro-Kremlin media outlets to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories about the Lugar Lab. The South Ossetian journalist focuses on Silverman’s American origin to gain more public trust towards the disinformation voiced in the video.

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The “documents” unveiled by Georgia’s ex-security chief, Igor Giorgadze in 2018, which, as Kremlin claims, prove that Sovaldi medication used for the treatment of Hepatitis C was tested on Georgian population, emerge as yet another source in the video. Later Giorgadze admitted in the interview with BBC that he had no evidence to prove that experiments were conducted on people at the Lugar Lab.

Myth Detector has prepared a number of articles about Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, Jeffrey Silverman and Igor Giorgadze.

Where was the propaganda video of occupied Tskhinvali region’s TV channel spread?

As of July 8, the video has 230 shares. The video was shared in several groups by three profiles - Инал Кокоев, Alan Mamiev and the author of the video Alan Tibilov, in a coordinated manner.

In total, the video was shared in 27 public groups: КОМИТЕТ " НОВЫЙ СССР- New USSR", СССР Великая Страна, патриоты Южной Осетии, Павел Грудинин - НАРОДНЫЙ Президент России, WWW.FORUMCAUCASUS.COM, Армения Кавказ Евразия, Я против террора США и НАТО !, Группа ««Кабардино-Балкарский Республиканский Народный Контроль»», Ավանդական Հայաստան Традиционная Армения, IRИр.Ис!, Zona Кавказа, СОВЕТОН РÆСТДЗИНАД   СОВЕТСКАЯ ПРАВДА    SOVIET TRUTH, НОВОРОССИЯ. Новости, прогнозы, комментарии, АЛАНИЯ, «OSNET» НОВОСТИ ЮЖНОЙ ОСЕТИИ, Объявления Владикавказ, Реклама и Объявления Владикавказ, Владикавказ Объявления / Аська.su / Республика Северная Осетия-Алания, ДЗУРЫ  ЦХИНВАЛ, Осетия,  IRON ACCENT, Вестник Алания, IRON ADÆM, М00 "Землячество Алании " ДНР, #АЛАНиЯ.

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By Sopo Gelava