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US military says collecting Russian DNA for ‘research purposes’

The US Air Force says Russia does not need to worry about its collection of Russian DNA samples. (File photo)

The US Air Force says it is collecting Russian DNA samples for “research” purposes only, after Russian President Vladimir Putin raised concerns about the practice and its possible use in biological warfare.

Speaking to Russian media, spokesman for the US Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Captain Beau Downey, dismissed bio-terrorism allegations and said the center randomly selected Russian population as the source for genetic material in a research on the musculoskeletal system.

Noting that the AETC was working on “locomotor studies to identify various biomarkers associated with trauma,” the spokesman said the center needed two sets of samples and since the first set, containing the “initial group of diseases” had Russian origin, “the control group of the samples should also be of Russian origin.”

The first set was provided by a “US-based company,” Downey said, noting that “the integrity of the study” was more important than the origin of the samples.

The fact that it was Russian tissue samples that the USAF was looking for, fueled speculation that the Pentagon was working on a biological weapon to target Russians.

Putin wary of biological warfare

Putin first broke the news of the sample collections during a speech at Russia’s Human Rights Council on Monday.

“Do you know that biological material is being collected all over the country, from different ethnic groups and people living in different geographical regions of the Russian Federation?” he asked.

The question is – why is it being done? It’s being done purposefully and professionally. We are a kind of object of great interest,” the Russian head of state continued. “Let them do what they want, and we must do what we must.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Tuesday that Russian intelligence services had documented such activities by some NGOs across Russia.

US, Israel worked on biogenetic weapons

Biogenetic weapons are defined as biological agents designed to inflict debilitating diseases or other internal bodily afflictions on a specific group of people who share a genetic code.

While it remains unclear if such weapons have ever been successfully developed, the US and Israel are known to have given it a try.

In 1998, the popular US-based technology magazine Wired reported that Israel was working on a biological agent “that would harm Arabs while leaving Jews unaffected.”

Reuters later reported that, according to British scientists, it was possible to develop such weapons given the advances in genetic mapping.

Additionally, the Soviet Union expressed concern in the 1980s that the US had either developed the AIDS virus in a bio-weapons lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, or was planning to use it as a weapon against certain populations.

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