Russia ‘researching how to weaponise deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic doomsday project’


Experts fear Russia could weaponise the deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic biological weapons project. 

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

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

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

WHAT IS EBOLA AND HOW DEADLY IS IT? 

Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, killed at least 11,000 across the world after it decimated West Africa and spread rapidly over the space of two years.

That pandemic was officially declared over back in January 2016.

Sierra Leone reported the highest number of Ebola cases, with nearly of all those infected having been residents of the nation.

WHERE DID IT BEGIN?

An analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the outbreak began in Guinea – which neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A team of international researchers were able to trace the pandemic back to a two-year-old boy in Meliandou – about 400 miles (650km) from the capital, Conakry.

Emile Ouamouno, known more commonly as Patient Zero, may have contracted the deadly virus by playing with bats in a hollow tree, a study suggested. 

Figures show nearly 29,000 people were infected from Ebola – meaning the virus killed around 40 per cent of those it struck.

Cases and deaths were also reported in Nigeria, Mali and the US – but on a much smaller scale, with 15 fatalities between the three nations.

Health officials in Guinea reported a mysterious bug in the south-eastern regions of the country before the WHO confirmed it was Ebola.

Ebola was first identified by scientists in 1976, but the most recent outbreak dwarfed all other ones recorded in history, figures show. 

IS THERE A TREATMENT?

Ebola symptoms include high temperatures, head aches and muscle weakness.

It can subsequently lead to severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth. 

The WHO warns that there is ‘no proven treatment’ for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and jabs are being tested in case of a similarly devastating outbreak.

Hope exists though, after an experimental vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, protected nearly 6,000 people. The results were published in The Lancet journal. 

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

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

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 (pictured) and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill at the flat in Amesbury, near Salisbury, after she handled a perfume bottle containing the poison

Ms Sturgess's partner, Charlie Rowley (pictured)

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

WHAT IS THE MARBURG VIRUS AND IS IT MORE DEADLY THAN EBOLA?

The World Health Organisation describes the Marburg virus as a ‘highly-virulent disease’ with a 88 per cent fatality rate.

This makes it more deadly than Ebola which has a fatality rate of 50 per cent.

Symptoms include a sudden fever, along with chills and headaches.

A rash around the chest, back and stomach can also occur. 

More-severe cases have involved jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, liver failure and substantial hemorrhaging.

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.

Ben Wallace admitted Russian behaviour is ‘not within the norms it used to be’ following a spate of activity in British waters in recent weeks, the Daily Telegraph reported.

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. 

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