Russia ‘is researching how to weaponise deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic doomsday project’, experts fear
- Unit of the FSB spy agency is believed to be researching Ebola and Marburg virus
- Diseases lead to organ failure and internal bleeding and have caused outbreaks
- Ex-intelligence insider fears Moscow could be going beyond studying diseases
- Could instead be examining how to weaponise them via the Toledo programme
Unit 68240 of Moscow’s FSB spy agency linked to the Salisbury novichok poisonings is thought to be behind the programme codenamed Toledo.
It is believed the unit is researching both Ebola and the even-more deadly Marburg virus.
The diseases have caused devastating outbreaks and lead to organ failure and severe internal bleeding.
A former UK military intelligence insider fears that Moscow could be going beyond studying the diseases and is instead examining how to weaponise them via the Toledo programme.
Toledo is a city in Spain which was devastated by the plague. A city in Ohio which saw a major flu outbreak in 1918 also shares the same name.
Investigators from the non-profitmaking OpenFacto organisation say they have discovered the Russian Ministry of Defence has a secret unit called the 48th Central Research Institute which is studying “rare and lethal” pathogens.
Moscow’s 48th Central Research Institute which is studying ‘rare and lethal’ pathogens is linked to the 33rd Central Research Institute which helped develop deadly nerve agent Novichok.
Experts fear Russia (President Vladimir Putin, pictured) could weaponise the deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic biological weapons project
Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in 2018.
The US has slapped both institutes with sanctions for ‘likely conducting research for the biological weapons’, reports claim.
The 48th instute is reportedly supplying data to FSB unit 68240, which is spearheading the Toledo programme.
A source told The Mirror: ‘Both Russia and the UK have labs studying biological and chemical warfare to learn how to defend against weapons such as Novichok.’
Unit 68240 of the country’s FSB spy agency is believed to be researching both Ebola and the even-more deadly Marburg virus. Pictured: Healthcare workers carrying a coffin with a baby, suspected of dying from Ebola, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018
Ebola has a fatality rate of 50 per cent and can cause severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth. Pictured: Health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, last year
But he stressed that Russia has already demonstrated that it is open to using such devastating weapons on Britain’s streets, including Novichok, which ‘steps it up a level’.
He added: ‘It could mean Russia potentially stepping up research on Ebola and Marburg and looking at its lethality as a weapon.’
Russia expert Bruce Jones said: ‘Most major powers can develop these hot and very deadly viruses. But they do this defensively.
‘At the end of the Cold War, Russia stepped away from any agreements in relation to weaponising them.
‘The difference between Russia and the West is that they do have form for using this kind of thing as a weapon, as we saw in the Salisbury novichok attack.’
The World Health Organisation describes the Marburg virus as a ‘highly-virulent disease’ with a 88 per cent fatality rate.
It was responsible for two major outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade in Serbia, in 1967.
Moscow’s 48th Central Research Institute which is studying ‘rare and lethal’ pathogens is linked to the 33rd Central Research Institute which helped develop deadly nerve agent Novichok. Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured) in Salisbury in 2018
It is believed to have stemmed from African green monkeys brought from Uganda for laboratory research.
There have since been outbreaks in countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and South Africa.
Ebola has a fatality rate of 50 per cent and can cause severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth.
An outbreak between 2014 and 2016 caused more than 11,000 deaths.