- 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
By JEMMA CARR FOR MAILONLINE PUBLISHED: 06:05 EST, 28 December 2020 | UPDATED: 09:19 EST, 28 December 2020
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.
Experts fear Russia (President Vladimir Putin, pictured) could weaponise the deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic biological weapons project.
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
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 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 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.’
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.’
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.
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.
Earlier this month, the UK’s Defence Secretary revealed that Russia is capable of killing thousands with a second chemical weapon attack on the streets of Britain.
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
Russia is capable of killing thousands with a second chemical weapon attack on the streets of Britain, the Defence Secretary has warned. Pictured: Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess
Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess (left) and her partner Charlie Rowley (right) fell ill after handling a perfume bottle containing the poison. Ms Sturgess died in hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on July 8 that year. Mr Rowley was left seriously ill but recovered
He stressed that although the UK hopes to forge a relationship with Russia, tensions were raised after the Government ‘used a nerve agent on the streets of Britain’ two years ago.
Former Russian spy Mr Skripal, 69, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok in March 2018.
Both survived, though Mr Skripal, who was jailed in Russia in 2006 for selling secrets to MI6, required a tracheotomy and now breathes through a tube.
The attack later claimed the life of mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, who is thought to have come into contact with the nerve agent after picking up a perfume bottle in a public park.
Speaking during a visit to Tapa Camp in Estonia, Mr Wallace said: ‘That type of nerve agent, delivered differently, could kill thousands of people.’
It comes as the family of Ms Sturgess moved to take legal action against Russia following her death four months after the Salisbury attack, the Mirror reported.
Lawyers for the victim’s family have lodged proceedings under the European Convention on Human Rights at the High Court in London.
The action, against the Russian Federation, its Ministry of Defence and Military Intelligence Service, gives them the right to sue in the future. (Click to Source)