Right-wing strategist Roger Stone, a prominent ally of former President Donald Trump, appears to have sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin in support of his invasion of Ukraine—claiming the Kremlin leader is “acting defensively.”
Russia launched its internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after weeks of warnings from President Joe Biden and other Western leaders that an attack was imminent. Putin attempted to justify the assault by absurdly claiming that Ukraine was led by “neo-Nazis” and needed to be “denazified.”
In reality, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and had family members killed in the Holocaust genocide orchestrated by the Nazis during World War II. When Zelensky won the presidency in 2019—with nearly three-quarters of the vote—Ukraine’s prime minister was also Jewish.
While polls show that the majority of Americans—Republicans, independents and Democrats—support the Ukrainians as they fight back against Russia’s unprovoked aggression, some on the right have expressed views critical of Ukraine. In a Saturday interview on Real America’s Voice, Stone took argued that Putin’s actions were defensive.
“Ukraine is not even remotely about what they are telling us about,” he said. “Ukraine is about the fact that the Ukrainians have used their soil to place dual-launch missile pads—missiles that would be aimed at the Soviet Union.”
The Soviet Union has been defunct since 1991, but Stone was apparently referring to Russia.
“There are, in fact, bio labs there [in Ukraine] that are funded by our tax dollars, cooking up who knows what pestilence to dump on the Russian people,” Stone continued. “Putin is acting defensively, he is not acting offensively. But you won’t read that in the mainstream media.”
After the invasion of Ukraine went less than smoothly, Putin and other Russian leaders began promoting claims that Kyiv was working to develop bioweapons at bio-labs in the country. The Ukrainian and U.S. governments have rejected these allegations, explaining that the bio-labs are used for research to prevent and address infectious disease outbreaks.
Some have speculated that they may still contain samples of pathogens used for biological weapons when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. However, experts have said that the labs are not being used to develop weapons and are not capable of doing so. The concern from experts is that the Russians could utilize pathogens in the labs on the Ukrainian population.
“There is no place that still has any of the sort of infrastructure for researching or producing biological weapons,” Robert Pope, the director of the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, said in a February interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Scientists being scientists, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these strain collections in some of these laboratories still have pathogen strains that go all the way back to the origins of that program.”
Filippa Lentzos, an expert on biological threats at King’s College London, wrote in 2018 that her and her colleagues did not see anything “out of the ordinary, or that we wouldn’t expect to see in a legitimate facility of this sort” when they toured a Ukrainian bio-lab, The New York Times reported.
In regards to the missile pads, the U.S. has deployed missile defense batteries in Romania and plans to do so in Poland, according to Foreign Policy. However, Ukraine only had decades-old Soviet-era missile defense systems at the start of the war, Forbes reported in December. Last November, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov did travel to Washington, DC, to ask for U.S. missile defense systems amid concerns about a possible Russian invasion.
Stone has promoted similar claims about Ukraine and Russia through his Telegram channel as well. “Russian groups are saying they uncovered a plot by Ukrainians to release a biological weapon in the country with NATO’s help,” a recent post shared by the right-wing strategist said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations reported Saturday that at least 847 civilians have died in Ukraine since the start of the Russian assault. Schools, a theater, and residential buildings have been struck by Russian rockets and missiles. The U.N. also said the death toll is likely much higher, and the Ukrainian government has said civilian deaths now number into the thousands. Millions have also fled the Eastern European nation as refugees, while many more have become internally displaced.