New outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) forced the Russian Agricultural Ministry to resume unscheduled inspections of pig farms, Russian newspaper Izvestia disclosed. These were suspended several years ago.
A spokesperson for the Ministry told the publication that the situation with ASF in the country remains tense. The virus keeps spreading among wild animals, and numerous farms have poor biological protection. He added that the Ministry developed an action plan to improve veterinary safety in the country but did not provide additional details.
The step is believed to be a response to an appeal of the Social Consumer Initiative, submitted to the Russian government on April 10. This is a Russian consumer rights organisation. Oleg Pavlov, the head of the organisation, described the ASF spread in the country as alarming. He expressed confidence that the disease is used as a biological weapon against Russia.
“All this [ASF spread] is logically linked with the biolaboratories that today operate, including in the territory of Ukraine. The disease may well be used as an economic weapon against our country, given that Western countries have openly declared their desire to inflict economic harm on us,” Pavlov said in the appeal.
Russia has levelled allegations since March that programmes in Ukraine sponsored by the US Defense Department were in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention. This is an international law regulating weaponised toxins. Russian government officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over the “US bio labs operating in Ukraine.” They claim they might be involved in “possible biological warfare.” The US and Ukraine have consistently refuted the allegations.
Pavlov pointed out that though ASF does not pose a threat to humans, its intensive spread in several Russian regions can lead to mass outbreaks and the death of millions of animals. He suggested that the authorities would resume unscheduled inspections of pig farms and slaughterhouses to ensure they comply with the existing veterinary rules.
Yuri Kovalev, chairman of the Russian Union of pork producers, however, said that ASF is not raging in Russia as it once did. Kovalev recalled the record losses the industry suffered in 2020, while in 2021, the number of ASF outbreaks halved compared to the previous year. In 2022, outbreak numbers dropped even further.
Since the beginning of 2022, the Russian veterinary body Rosselhoznadzor has registered 30 ASF outbreaks in the country. These include some in Siberia, a region considered to be relatively safe in terms of ASF in the previous years.