U.S. sanctions Russian institute involved in development of Covid-19 vaccine

The United States has added several Russian research institutes to the sanctions lists, including the 48th Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, which participated in the development of the world’s first registered Covid-19 vaccine.

The Bureau of Industry and Security of the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted sixty entities from ten countries, including France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, China, the United Arab Emirates and others for "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

The corresponding notice was published on Wednesday in the Federal Register, which collects official documents of the United States government.

Among those sanctioned were the 33rd Central Research and Testing Institute and the 48th Central Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense, as well as the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology.

The 48th Central Research Institute worked with the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology on the country’s Covid-19 vaccine, dubbed “Sputnik V,” which was officially registered by the Russian government on August 11th.

The US document states that Washington authorities have reason to suspect that the 33rd Institute has ties "to the Russian chemical program and chemical weapons testing site,” the 48th Institute is related “to the Russian biological weapons program,” and the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology is linked “to the Russian chemical weapons program.”

While commenting on the matter, Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov characterized the allegations as “confusing” and noted that no evidence was provided of any connections of the aforementioned institutes with biological or chemical weapons programs.

The Ambassador went on to remind the media that Moscow was in full compliance with international obligations regarding chemical weapons stockpiles, and that Russia, unlike the U.S., had eliminated all such stockpiles, which was confirmed back in 2017 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

“I would like to stress that the United States remains the only possessor of significant stockpiles of chemical warfare agents and is delaying their elimination under various pretexts. We call on the U.S. to stop searching for problems where they don’t exist and do their part to achieve chemical demilitarization as soon as possible,” said Antonov.

It is unclear whether the inclusion of the 48th Central Research Institute will have any impact on the continued development, production and distribution of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine.