ПРОБЛЕМЫ ХИМИЧЕСКОЙ БЕЗОПАСНОСТИ — ХИМИЯ И ЖИЗНЬ
Сообщение UCS-INFO.8, 27 сентября 1994 г.
Направляю английскую версию пресс-конференции, проведенной в российско-американском пресс-центре 22 сентября в связи с Американско-Российскими днями действий за экологически безопасное уничтожение химического оружия.
27 сентября 1994 г., Лев А.Федоров
PRESS CONFERENCE WITH LEV FYODOROV, PRESIDENT OF THE UNION FOR CHEMICAL SAFETY (RUSSIA), FOR THE ECOLOGICAL SAFE DISPOSAL OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS, SEPTEMBER 22, 1994
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE Kremlin Package (KMLN) (FNST)
TRANSCRIPT BY: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
620 NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC 20045
Moderator: Good day, the theme of our today’s press conference is «For the Ecological Safety of the Destruction of Chemical Weapons» in relation to the American-Russian action. Taking part in the conference is Lev Alexandrovich Fyodorov, a doctor of chemical sciences, president of the «Union for Chemical Safety». You know him well. We have a press release on the functions of the Union. So, if you are interested in getting this information, you are welcome. Lev Alexandrovich, you have the floor.
Fyodorov: Thank you for coming to hear our views on the problems of liquidating chemical weapons. As Natalia Alexandrovna said, the theme, no, I would rather use the word «pretext» for our meeting today is the Russian-American action for an economically safe disposal of chemical weapons.
This action came into being, historically, on the proposal of our American friends, ecologists, who in connection with the fall session of Congress are now carrying out a system of actions directed at attracting the attention of Congress to the fact that not everything is alright with the plans of destroying chemical weapons. I will clarify this a bit later. When they informed us of this, we, naturally, joined this action.
First of all because we have a similar situation in our country, an even worse situation and, secondly, because in September we have the 5th anniversary of the well known in its time Chapayevsk protest, something that some people must have forgotten. In September 1989 the residents of Chapayevsk, a small town few people know about, made the government retreat and stop the already built plant for the destruction of chemical weapons. We hope that this plant will never go into operation again.
So, our two desires merged into this international action. Nobody else can join this action because only two countries in the world have chemical weapons — the United States and Russia. True, we could have invited somebody to take part but that would have been merely a symbolical participation, a gesture. And now to the crux of the matter.
What is the state of affairs in the United States?
Historically, the United States, from the point of view of the disposal of chemical weapons, outwardly appeared to be in more favorable conditions. A more civilized society and there the attitude to such a serious matter as the bidding of farewell to chemical warfare and the liquidation of chemical weapons was extremely serious. And long before our country was notified a series of all sorts of measures were carried out in the United States. On a very high and serious level. First of all, Congress banned the development of new chemical weapons from 1969 and thereby in the United States this problem of liquidating weapons was raised in a different manner.
In 1986 the army conducted a most serious analysis. In the course of this analysis an evaluation was made of all possibilities and the army arrived at the conclusion that the transportation of American chemical weapons on American railways is impossible and for this reason the army decided to destroy chemical weapons at places of their current storage. I will speak mostly about the eight bases that exist in the continental part of the United States. You see, they have a ninth base on Johnston atoll. That is in the middle of the ocean. Also in 1986, after the analysis, the army decided to destroy chemical weapons only by the method of incineration. That was the basic and only technology adopted at that time. The American army submitted these materials to Congress. I want to say in advance that prior to that the army worked in a most detailed manner with the population — explaining, persuading, arguing, debating — and reached a certain consensus of that time. It submitted the materials to Congress which studied the problem for two years and in 1988 Congress endorsed the army’s point of view and it thereby became state policy. In the process Congress adopted a decision backup the process with a whole system of legal documents. That is laws regulating the activities of all sides involved, first of all the army. So that the army would be within a very clearly defined legal framework. That is the first. Secondly, Congress recommended the army to be in constant contact with the population so that this brittle problem would never elude control. Such is history.
I have already said that incineration was taken as the basic technology. In short, they are incinerating for ten years already. They are incinerating continuously on Johnston atoll. Experience has been accumulated, including experience of accidents. In other words, there is accumulated material. Two years ago, in October, Congress adopted a decision on additional guarantees for the population. Juridical guarantees. I will speak of them when I reach the theme of our population. But doubts began to appear some one and a half — two years ago. Doubts that this pretty picture could be at variance with reality.
The main doubt was as follows. According to data of the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the United States it is this agency that is responsible for ecological monitoring in the area of these bases where chemical weapons are liquidated, we do not have this. So, according to the Agency’s information, it turned out that a multitude of non-identified substances originate during the incineration of chemical weapons. And it is only ten percent of the emissions that were identified. The formulas of substances were determined and their toxicological characteristics were established. This made it possible to think about ways of trapping them, absorbing them on some filters, about ways of protecting the population. So, it turns out that 90 percent of the emissions are not identified. This is official data of the American Environmental Protection Agency.
This is the key issue. It is the reason why the public developed doubts and demanded a reassessment of the entire process. First of all, doubts about why should the American army only and exclusively incinerate chemical weapons. A revaluation was made and these volumes were published two years ago and last year. Sorry, the publications were this year and last year. These volumes described in a detailed way alternative technologies of destroying chemical weapons. This is when the trip-up began. The army said «okay, no doubt about that, everything is correct, but we already have a Congressional decision that the weapons should be liquidated by this particular method, by incineration and within a particular timeframe». In other words, the army believed that it was bound by certain government obligations and for this reason could not change anything. Then the American ecologists began studying documents of the American army and the Council for Scientific Research and discovered a mistake in them. A mistake in calculations was made and as a result, a wrong assessment was made of risk, risk resulting from the way one of the types of American chemical weapons was stored. In other words, the risk was greater in reality.
This is how it happened. Instead of weeks they got days. They had to count in days but counted in weeks and they estimated that the risk would be 17-18 years, a time sufficient for the liquidation of chemical weapons, but when they started sorting out the mistake, as I said, the mistake was weeks instead of days, they came out with a longer figure, a figure seven times greater, that is, 120 years. But this was a formal pretext. After it the Greens said, and it was last spring that I asked them if they trusted their army, and they told me that, of course, they trusted their army. But now they said that they no longer trusted their army and that it was necessary to revaluate everything from the start. And this scandal has now reached Congress.
For this reason their actions will culminate on September 25. What will be their actions? In America. Protest meetings and marches will be held in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Maryland. In the other localities, in Utah, Oregon and Colorado, there will be other activities. In short, all these activities will take place on September 25 in all the localities where they have chemical weapons depots. You must add to this the Hawaii.
After speaking at such length about the United States I will now turn to our own affairs. In Russia the situation is more serious. And our system of measures will be a different one. We did not have time for preparations because we joined this process only three weeks ago and the culmination, as I said, is on the 25th. So, I will describe the situation in our country.
First of all, the definition «disposal of chemical weapons» is given erroneously in our country. We are told that liquidation of chemical weapons is the destruction of the chemical weapons that we now have. We have seven military bases with 40,000 tons of toxic substances. I want to repeat that these are 40,000 net tons. Because there is a frequent digital aggression in the press and sometimes gross weight is mentioned and gross weight is confused with net weight. So, these are 40,000 officially announced tons. In reality this is not so, but let us accept this official army figure.
Q: What is the real figure?
Fyodorov: In reality the figure is greater. But we will have a question-and-answer session at the end, so let us not distract ourselves. So, these 40,000 tons are lying at seven bases and there appears to be no question about that. We study the issue, decide on a technology, build some plants for the liquidation of the weapons, deliver these weapons to these furnaces or some other reactors, and destroy them. So, we have a reserve of some 10 odd years and everything is clear. But that is the way the army thinks.
We think differently. The process of liquidating chemical weapons includes not only liquidation, but also many other things. Let us begin with the assertion that for us chemical war has not ended. Although nobody has ever informed us about its beginning. We remember the known phrase that «war ends when the last dead soldier is buried». In this sense the Second World War is not over as far as we are concerned and everybody is perfectly well aware of it. You can find proof of this in the forests around Novgorod. But that has to do with the moral aspects of the matter. But we are talking about chemical weapons which are a very real danger.
Let me explain. Less than 1 percent of the yperite made during the Soviet period has been presented. On a very conservative estimate we produce 80,000 tons of yperite. For the time being we have been presented with a little over 1 percent for disposal. The question may be asked, where is the rest? We manufactured about 20,000 of lewisite. About 7,000 tons have been presented for disposal. The question may be asked, where are the remaining 13,000 tons? And the 6,000 tons of adamsite, which is an arsenic-containing substance just like lewisite, have not been presented for disposal at all because under the latest definition this is no longer a toxic agent. So, all the chemical weapons accumulated under Soviet government have disappeared. But chemical weapons unlike many other things have a way of haunting us.
Yperite when burned forms many carcinogens. When our army secretly burned most of the yperite, while part of it was buried and part of it was sunk, we have inherited all this yperite. And until we have established where, how and when it was buried, burned and sunk, until all these consequences have been assessed, the liquidation of chemical weapons cannot be considered completed.
The same applies not only to burial and burning, but to the tests of chemical weapons and to their storage.
So, this indicates the presence of a large period of chemical weapons history which cannot be excluded from the context of chemical weapons disposal. That period of history has translated itself into the ecological realities of today. That is why we say that the army’s plans should be criticized, and it is necessary to get rid of chemical weapons. However, without looking at that period in history we will never close that chapter in chemical warfare.
Technology. During the past years the army discussed many different technologies. But the army has not yet come up with any viable technology. We do not know of a single technological process which could handle, say, 6,400 tons of lewisite in Udmurtia at the Kambarka base, without environmental damage. Originally six technologies were proposed, there now remain four, but whatever the army might say there are still no truly environment-friendly technologies. The army is trying to convince our government that there is some profit to be derived from the disposal of chemical weapons. That is untrue. Because when we start balancing environmental concerns against profits, environmental concerns are always the first to go. We have found it out to our own cost.
So, the army’s suggestion that they should convert lewisite into arsenic and put it in the international market, where there is naturally no demand for it, this line of reasoning which the army is still pursuing is preventing it from understanding that the four options they have proposed do not offer a viable technology for disposing of the lewisite currently stored in Udmurtia.
The army today, as you will read in the statement distributed to you, has suggested in a document setting forth the conception for disposal of chemical weapons that the army is allowed to destroy so-called defective chemical warheads, and to do so without any supervision, at its own discretion. That is an erroneous thesis and a dangerous one. During the last two years the warheads which have gone undeclared and were hidden were being disposed of at the chemical test range in Shikhany by the army. It involves health hazards for the local population. Morbidity has increased dramatically in the area. Last year there were some cases which could be attributed to the impact of
yperite. The army has denied this. Clearly, an independent inquiry is in order. But the undeniable fact is that the army continues to dispose of chemical warheads.
Next point. The interests of the population are entirely unprotected. Two years ago the Americans adopted an act whereby the local people had the final say on issues of disposal of chemical weapons. The governor of every state appoints a panel from amongst the residents of the state. Seven are members of the public, and two are representatives of the governor. But these two do not have deciding votes. So, all the issues are resolved by the panel. In this country such an awareness is lacking at the federal and local levels. That’s why the population’s interests are totally unprotected. Another issue with regard to which we can safely say that the army will not have its way is connected with secrecy. Neither the army, nor the chemical industry, nor the Health Ministry are ready to declassify documents. Not only documents with regard to past manufacture of chemical weapons, and defective weapons. They refuse to declassify the information to which we are entitled, that is, environmental and health information which should not be classified as a matter of principle. So, until all the secrets have been declassified it cannot be claimed that we have embarked on this road. And finally, I would like to tell you about the events that we are planning to stage during these days of protest.
We have chosen six or seven sites over which we differ. Let us begin with Chapayevsk. Five years ago there were protests in Chapayevsk, but because the government has committed itself to reopening that facility our challenge is to collect signatures under a letter to Premier Chernomyrdin reaffirming the local resident’s position stated five years ago and reporting to the Prime Minister that it is still opposed to the reopening of the facility. So much for Chapayevsk. Also in Chapayevsk we have finished searching for all the people who were engaged in the manufacture of chemical weapons during the war.
Most of them in Chapayevsk we have now completed our search for all the people who manufactured chemical weapons during the war. The overwhelming majority of them have died. But 110 persons in Chapayevsk and 25 in the rest of Russia are alive, forgotten by the state and naturally suffering from occupational diseases. For this reason we must now start showing concern for them.
The next point. Chapayevsk was the first town of chemical weapons while Cheboksary is the last town of chemical weapons, a city where the most modern chemical weapons were manufactured from 1972 to 1987. From two to three thousand people worked at the chemical facility in Cheboksary. 170 of them were certified as having occupational diseases and have at least some rights. The others don’t. For this reason our task now is to ensure state care for people who were plunged into disease, who did not know that they will suffer. So during these days clerks in the Ministry of Public Health and in the Ministry of Defense are opening letters containing demands of these people. We are not children and we know where these letters will wind up. For this reason we have a system of follow-up measures, but I will not discuss them today.
Next comes the Saratov hub that is known to you. The settlement Gorny where old chemical weapons are stored and the township Shikhany where chemical weapons have always been tested. These two populated localities… As to Shikhany, we have been protesting there throughout the past year against the continuing liquidation of discarded, so-called discarded munitions. In Gorny, on Sunday, September 25, there will be a protest demonstration by local residents. They have already formulated their demands and will present them.
According to my information, their representatives will arrive here… They are not members of our Union for Chemical Safety. They are just members of an ecological movement and tomorrow at 11 they plan to post pickets on Staraya Ploshchad square in front of the building housing the presidential committee on chemical and biological weapons. If anybody is interested you can go there tomorrow and have a look. I repeat, tomorrow, 11 a.m. at Staraya Ploshchad square.
Old weapons are stored in Udmurtia. In Kambarka — lewisite. We had many protest demonstrations there already. Now we have identified all the people, 19 of them, who remain alive after the previous destruction of chemical weapons. The others died of cancer that they developed as a result of that liquidation. So, on the 25th there will be a meeting of these residents. They will form their microunion which will join our Union for Chemical Safety. We will protect their interests. So far, neither the Ministry of Public Health nor the Ministry of Defense have shown no interest in this.
Bryansk. This is our latest base of chemical weapons. This is an airbase. This is the town of Pochik, a small town, a clean town. The only place in the whole of Bryansk region that was not contaminated by Chernobyl. And it was there that the chemical weapons depot was sited and it is there that it is intended to destroy these weapons. So, on the 25th there will be a protest demonstration by local residents. People there did not protest in the past. They are beginning only now. They have, if I can put it this way, awakened. So, this is a novelty for them.
Last comes Moscow. As I told you, here we had publications in the central press, there were reports on the fourth television channel in the program «Vremechko». And now we have this press conference. There will be some other activities as well. So, these are the activities that will be undertaken from our, Russian side.
I must have taken a lot of your time so thank you for listening to me so patiently. I would like to suggest that we discuss next time the convention on chemical weapons, the ratification of the convention, the whole juridical knot associated with this. Of course, if there will be questions on this topic, I will answer them. But I believe it best to discuss this next month.
Q: Three short questions. First, what is the Alliance for Chemical Safety? You have just indicated that it is a non-governmental organization. Who make up its membership scientists, engineers, environmentalists, enthusiasts, housewives ? Second question. How much clout does your alliance have to make a difference to environmental safety during the disposal of chemical weapons? And the most specific and to me the most important question. You have said that the army has no viable technologies for chemical weapons disposal. You are a professional chemical scientist. I have read your press release and forgive my saying so, it is little more than a declaration. These things are mishandled, these things should not done, these materials have not been taken stock of. Do you have an effective technology to offer? And the last question, are you going to take part in tomorrow’s event on Staraya Ploshchad ?
Fyodorov: No, I am not. It will be staged by young guys from the organization called «Rainbow reepers». That organization is not a member of our Union. They asked me yesterday to give you notice.
Q: Judging from the enthusiastic statements you have been making just now one would expect that you will take part in the event.
Fyodorov: I have told you that I will not attend tomorrow’s rally. And if I may now answer your other questions. I would like to avoid mutual recriminations and to avoid undue emotionalism. You have yourself answered the question as to the membership of our movement. All those groups you have enumerated are members. You see, historically this movement grew out of protests of all those who wanted to protest and who had realized that they had to protest. So, it includes all the groups you have mentioned. During the year since we have been in existence our union has been joined by many victims of chemical weapons and many scientists and historical scholars who have started working with us.
The second question. I reject your criticism to the effect that we reject technologies. We have repeatedly suggested to the army that we should sit down and discuss technologies together. All the technologies for the disposal of chemical weapons are being discussed in secrecy. I can cite the latest example. Statement of the expert commission to evaluate alternative variants for lewisite disposal technologies. It was approved last summer by General Petrov and the head of the expert commission was his deputy, General Tarasevich. And the deputy head of the panel is General Kholstov who is also a deputy to General Petrov, etc. They are all army men. This is not the way to work. We simply do not know these technologies. And if you want correct procedures to be followed, technologies should be discussed openly. We can set up joint working groups together with the army, with industry and medical people open to all professionals, not closed. As for the last question, I have already answered it. I will not be on Staraya Ploshchad tomorrow, I have other business.
Q: Does a technology exist for safe disposal of chemical weapons?
Fyodorov: The point is that they want to profit. For instance, what can be done to lewisite. For example, a technology has been developed by our Moscow institute, a technology which calls for — for example there are 80 tanks containing 80 tons of lewisite each. It is possible to polymerize that lewisite and bury it for our descendants. When they want to get arsenic for electronics or for other purposes, they can remove that lewisite and use it. But this would then cease to be chemical weapons, turning into a raw material. This is the least expensive approach. It does exist. It has been brilliantly developed, but it has not been included in the list of those base technologies which our generals intend to consider. Why so? The reason behind this is that for this they would not get money from the state. Actually, no money is needed. And what they propose — they intend to ask for money, to build a factory, to begin processing lewisite. They would then destroy all the outlying area, extract several hundred kilograms of arsenic, which would be enough for the electronic industry for the coming around 80-100 years. We don’t need that much arsenic. Especially given the fact that the market does not need it as well. But they would thus earn money. They would get money from the state and spend it. We oppose such an approach.
Q: What can you say about alternatives to burning?
Fyodorov: Alternatives to burning? There are lots of alternative approaches. These are all properly developed. They are safe technologies, quite expensive. But when the train has got moving, it is not easy to stop and transfer to another one. It is clear to Americans, as well as to us. By the way, our approaches are different, but still in many of our technologies, in some or other way, burning is applied. We cannot agree with this.
Q: Reports say that Americans have been burning their war gas for 10 years.
Fyodorov: This takes place on the Johnston atoll, far in the ocean, several hundred kilometers away from all living things.
Q: Have they been using other technologies?
Fyodorov: They have plans to begin burning chemicals on the continent in the coming years. But the population has been protesting, since when it happens on the Johnston, it is possible to discuss it, but…
Q: And the last question. The population stages protest rallies against on-site disposal, but it is also hazardous to transport chemical weapons.
Fyodorov: This is the most difficult question. It is up to those living there and planning to live there in the future whether or not they should agree to the scrapping of chemical weapons near their homes. Nobody, in this country or anywhere else, has the right to pass such decisions but the population. Therefore, we insist that the final say should belong to them. They will decide.
You have approached the core of the problem. True, residents of Gorny and Kambarka have been protesting, but they have been protesting primarily due to the fact that over all that period of coexistence with chemical weapons, they have not seen anything from the state but misfortunes. If the power, if the state, if the army find approaches in order to satisfy some — I don’t know them — requirements of that population, if they arrive at some consensus, if we, having analyzed technologies which plans call for applying there, if we see that they are safe, if we work with the population and if we find out that they agree, provided that they are convinced that the technology is safe, probably it will happen this way. But today there is nothing of the kind.
Take Kambarka. Chemical weapons have been stockpiled there since 1942 or rather October 1941. What have they received from the Soviet power? Nothing. All those who scrapped chemical weapons have died, a mere 19 people are still alive. Recently, around two months ago, I was there. The army has instructed the university, asked them to find out whether there was arsenic there. They set about their task enthusiastically only to be told that they were allowed to study the area around the chemical site. They made measurements outside the chemical site and no arsenic was found. They reported the good news. And when I challenged them and asked them why they hadn’t entered the site, they said the army hadn’t let them in. Now, if you were disposing of yperite and lewisite inside the site, if the base stands on sand and there is protective clay barrier and all the sand is drained into the Kama River the procedure that suggests itself is obvious. Go inside the base and take samples and test them for arsenic. This would be the correct approach. But there is no such ecological monitoring and the local people know there isn’t. If that town is cut off from the rest of the world, if it has no roads, no decent hospitals, if the school is an eyesore and if people see that they are forsaken by everyone, can you expect them to consent to the disposal of chemical weapons there? As if they didn’t have enough troubles already. The whole point is that they have yet to get proof that anybody cares about them.
Q: National News Service. I am interested in a slightly different set of issues. Do we sell chemical weapons? Are our chemical weapons competitive?
Fyodorov: That is an unexpected question because chemical weapons trade is banned and the year before last the President issued a decree which says that trade in toxic substances is forbidden and it enumerates the substances. And that list also includes their precursors, also biologically active substances, toxins and many other things. To be sure the decree was drawn up by generals and it has good many holes in it. For instance, new chemical weapons are not included. The precursors of V-gas included are not ours, but American. That is, our V-gas actually is not on the banned list. So, it can be the object of trade. at least, theoretically.
As for the background, it is true that the Soviet Union pursued trade in chemical weapons on a small scale in former times. We built facilities hydrocyanic acid plants in Rumania and China. It can be argued that the hydrocyanic acid is just an industrial chemical, but at the time these facilities were built for the purpose of producing chemical weapons. Those were the times before the Sino-Soviet rift at the beginning of the ’60s. What happened to that comparatively minor trade operation is a mystery to me. Some warheads probably found their way abroad, but I don’t think the amounts were serious.
The press does raise the possibility that our chemical weapons are spreading in the world. By the way, this is a very serious argument for Americans and, indeed, for our generals. When we are induced to sign not very favorable documents we are told that Saddam Hussein may get hold of such and such weapons, and so on. I don’t think that is a fair approach. The best way to ensure non-proliferation of chemical weapons is to put them under international inspection. You remember the reports on a new chemical weapon we know nothing about. All this data is in the possession of the American government, the Russian government and a certain number, say, several hundred, scientists, developers, technologists, etc. In this case, a leak is possible and you will never be able to prevent it. If we announce the formula and put everything under international control, then it will be easier to control. But so far, the American and Russian governments have not arrived at this idea. The American and Russian governments now have a system of secret mutual relations.
All the latest data on our arsenal of chemical weapons, all the data in its entirety was presented by our government to the American one in April of this year. So, there are no secrets between us. I mean there are no secrets between the governments. There are no secrets between the military-chemical complexes. There are only secrets from us, from the American population and the Russian population. This is fraught with consequences, as I have said. This may escape control.
Q: Postfactum. Are there any chemical weapons depots in the areas of hot spots on the territory of the former USSR — Tajikistan, Northern Caucasus, Transcaucasus?
Fyodorov: There have been some reports, for instance, in respect of the Armenian-Azerbaijanian conflict. Some type of shells were used two years ago. But then a United Nations commission arrived and, supposedly, did not find any information. You know when an event happens, time elapses and only then a commission arrives it becomes difficult to determine whether a fact had existed or not. What worries us is not this, but something else. In the areas of what you call hot spots there are even hotter spots for us — I mean old burials, old forgotten burials. This is really terrible. In May the newspaper Trud carried a story about a farmer in the Kamchatka Peninsula who dug a well and then 45 cows died first, then 30 hogs and 350 chicken. They all perished. The farmer could not fathom the cause of this. Specialists from the State Commission for Emergency Situations came and told them that this was natural since a chemical weapons storage was once located there. This is what we must fear and not hot spots. You see, we always think in categories of politics whereas we should think in categories of ecological policy.
In this respect the burden of the past that we have, it is the most cruel one. All the seas washing Russian shores, in all of these seas without exception chemical weapons were dumped. Data on this to this day is being concealed from us. Throughout the territory of Russia in various years of Soviet government there were storages of chemical weapons. And the number of happenings like the one with the farmer in Kamchatka will grow. This number will grow with privatization and development of land, when people will start digging into the land in earnest. We are not in possession of this data and the army stubbornly refuses to provide us with this data.
The Americans conducted a full analysis. See, this is their report. It deals with all the 215 localities on the American continent, on the territory of the United States, where any whatsoever work related to chemical weapons was ever conducted. You will find in this report detailed descriptions of all the 215 localities. The residents of those localities are in no danger of digging up old storage depots.
But in our country we will have numerous unpleasant encounters with old depots. And not only with old depots, for instance, those that were abandoned by us when we were running away, when we were retreating from our Western borders ahead of the advancing Germans. Something was abandoned, something was dug into the ground. I refer not to this. No. I mean the most latest chemical weapons depots. For instance, during the confrontation with China chemical bases were set up along the entire line. Take, for instance, Petrovskoye-Zabaikalskoye. The base was liquidated and moved to Bryansk. Good. But what remains there? Are you sure that some other farmer will not dig a well there and will not poison himself, his family and his sheep?
Q: What is the purpose of your forthcoming action? To attract the attention of the public to this problem or to be allowed to take part in the drafting of technologies, in analysis, etc.?
Fyodorov: As regards attracting attention, certainly this is true. I would just like to explain that we were set up as an organization for self protection of the population. One should realize that the state cannot protect us against high toxin chemistry. The state, represented by the sanitary and epidemic inspectorate and the Environmental Protection Ministry, has not realized so far that there is such a real threat — high toxin compounds, substances. In this sense, we would like to attract the attention of authorities to the fact that there is such a threat. And unless the state can resolve these problems itself — as it is the case today with nitrogen oxides, with sulfur oxides, with benzopyrene, with heavy metals, everybody has heard about it, have read about it in newspapers.
And as for such leaks as those of dioxins, chemical waste or liquid missile fuel, which pose a threat similar to that posed by chemical weapons, but nobody registers them. They are being transported without any problem, people work with them, get poisoned. There are no decontamination technologies.
As for our participation, yes, we could take part. We have a draft calling for the setting up of an independent laboratory. But this is a different problem. It concerns receiving funds, and it is premature to discuss this problem. As for examination, as for general estimates of the situation, as for assistance to the population, the search for people who have suffered and have been left without care, we will cope with those problems all the time.
Q: You have been speaking about your organization. What is its membership? What contacts do you have with provinces? What methods you use to measure risks?
Fyodorov: Each territory has its own risks. Let me explain them, citing concrete examples. The organization is based on the territorial principle, and our local organizations, say, in the Saratov region or in Udmurtia themselves determine problems urgent for them. This is very serious. We should not make residents of the Saratov region cope with chemical safety problems of the Bryansk region. These are different problems.
Q: Who, along with you, are members of the…
Fyodorov: Of the so-called council? The council is made up of the heads of local organizations. That is, this is an association of collectives. We have 8 or 7 local organizations, I cannot recall the precise figure. All the rest are in the making, and I cannot speak about them. What was the last question?
Q: In what way do you measure risks?
Fyodorov: Ah, yes, risks, this is not easy. Just look, a week ago we prepared a brief tape for the Vremechko TV show. A worker who used to produce chemical weapons. He spoke about his life. He said he was visiting the church and trusted nobody. In January, when he
appeared on television, he still believed in something. Over that period, we have tried to help him. In the third main department, there is an institute in St. Petersburg, which should — and it is the only one having such a right — but they have not started his treatment. We have sent a letter to the Health Ministry soliciting help for him. In the meantime, that person has changed his mind compared to what he said in January. He says, «I have been forgotten by everyone, I just go to church, I no longer trust anyone.» What I told you about Udmurtia where they buried yperite and lewisite
on the site of their base and it could have found its way into the Kama River. This is just a guess. Let us look into this matter. And you will then be asking us your questions about our findings.
Q: Is the number of victims of chemical weapons known?
Fyodorov: In the booklet it refers to millions. Let us look at it this way. Yperite and lewisite were produced in Chapayevsk and the facility employed 5,000 people during the war. That’s in the former Samara Gubernia. All of them died except 110 people. In Chuvashia 3,000 people were engaged in producing the latest V-gas. All of them became victims. Medical people may or may not recognize this. But if you sit down and talk with these people you will see that they are very sick people. After the war about 5,000 people were employed in Volgograd and you won’t find a single unaffected person there. And all this adds up to tens of thousands of people who were victims of severe or chronic poisoning that is medically certifiable.
But if you speak in terms of exposure to micro amounts, the impact on the change of background that would swell the number of victims to hundreds of thousands and even a million.
Now consider the fact that we sunk yperite in 12 locations in all the seas washing Russia’s shores. Yperite is a mutagenic substance. When starfish suddenly started dying in 1990 this was an international scandal. And immediately those who were engaged in sinking yperite remembered the fact and said that it couldn’t be otherwise. Other reasons were also cited. It was suggested that some vessel had dumped nuclear fuel, etc. But the effects of yperite will be with us indefinitely because it has already changed the water fauna there. So, we have yet to make such general assessments.
Q: Would you yourself agree to live in a place where chemical weapons are disposed of?
Fyodorov: This is the fundamental question. This is the question I put to every person who tells me, «These people in Bryansk are selfish, where else can we take chemical weapons?» This is the most terrible dilemma. They will have to make that difficult decision for themselves. Don’t put that question for me. I live in Moscow just like you do. So, when I come to such regions I never urge them to agree. I tell them, this is up to you.
Q: What should be done in order to secure their consent?
Fyodorov: You are prompting me to air a hypothesis which you will not publicize. For instance, there is a small town of Kizner in Udmurtia where phosphoric toxic agents are stored. It is a God forsaken place. Until the authorities have built a real hospital, until they have built real roads (the place can hardly be reached by road) none of the local residents would agree. But if the authorities do all these things, who knows, perhaps, they will agree. And if we are sure of all the technologies and sit down and discuss them together with the Americans and if we are satisfied that these technologies are safe ones, we will announce to the population that they are safe. Maybe, they will agree to this. But that is their sovereign right. And, please note, not only the final say should be theirs. But in the event of what we call civil accord, Moscow and the residents of this small town conclude an agreement. Moscow builds for them the following, while in response they agree that chemical weapons be liquidated there. But in this case if in the course of the fulfillment of the agreement Moscow fails to fulfill certain stages, they have the right to stop the fulfillment of this agreement. It is only on such terms, and this is my personal opinion, do not consider it my official statement, that the residents will agree to this. They all will have to work. The Americans, the military, worked for 20 years before the inhabitants agreed to take part in this scheme in the first place. Our military immediately sent forward the cavalry — come on, let’s start work immediately.
Q: Is such work being conducted in our country?
Fyodorov: It began five years ago in Chapayevsk. You will remember how an electric bulb factory was secretly built. When it was built it was announced to the inhabitants. Announced. That was quite an announcement. Shevardnadze declared from the rostrum of the United Nations Organization that we have built a plant in the steppes beyond the Volga and we will destroy chemical weapons there. The inhabitants were dumbstruck. That was all the announcement amounted to. They protested, but that was all. This electric bulb factory is standing there and rotting away.
Fyodorov: Do you want me to expound on my personal point of view? I believe there should be payment for the past. Their future must be paid for and their past as well. This, however, is a hypothesis. You can call it payment for consent. If you want, you can call it payment for fear. But we must understand these people. We should not be egoists.
Q: Is it possible to destroy weapons where they are located and to evacuate the local population?
Fyodorov: It only seems to be a simple solution. Count. Where will you move the population to? And, besides, who will work at the plant? After all, it has to be staffed, there must be somebody in place to destroy the chemical weapons. The risk zone, although different figures are mentioned, is about 15 kilometers. Millions of people in our country have found themselves within risk zones. You draw the line of the risk zone around the seven bases and you will see this. All the residents, virtually all — although you say that those are small townships — they all believe that they live in the most densely populated localities. But everything began with the idea to transport to Chuvashia, to the city of Novocheboksarsk, where chemical weapons were manufactured before. So there this 15-kilometer zone encompasses a half of Chuvashia, a half of the population of Chuvashia. Something in the vicinity of one million people. So things are not simple at all.
As to our nuclear specialists, they say «no problem, let us take all your chemical weapons to Novaya Zemlya where we will build a shaft and detonate in it an atomic bomb with all the chemical weapons and everything will be okay».
But how will you transport these weapons? How will you transport these 40,000 tons of rust-eaten munitions to Novaya Zemlya? There is no reason to discuss what will happen as a result of the blast because we know what will happen before the blast. Transportation of chemical weapons is the most vulnerable element in work with chemical weapons. When a chemical weapon lies let it lie and do not touch it. If you touch it, then only with the purpose of taking it to the furnace for incineration. The moment you load chemical weapons and start transporting them by rail you know what will happen. Incidentally, it turns out we never had a strategy of employing chemical weapons. They were not necessary. Because if you have nuclear missile weapons, and approximately by 1956, 1958 everything became clear. And it was necessary to eliminate chemical weapons then, at that time. Americans, in 1968, stopped because of this.
And ours, the advanced Cheboksary factory was only put into operation in 1972. This is the problem — we have stepped aside from the topic, but if you have asked — the problem of the state is that, the problem of the militarized state which could not stop, which could not find some closed system for combating prospective enemies, releasing funds which are not needed for this. We have now found ourselves in a situation when all those who have been hit by our chemical weapons are our own people, to the last individual, including those who are no longer our people, those Georgians, 19 or 20 people killed five years ago in April 1989 in Tbilisi. They were victims of our chemical weapons, that CS gas we possess. And 40,000 tons are not included in the list that has been made public. This is another problem requiring special discussion.
Moderator: I think we’ve drawn to a close. We thank Lev Alexandrovich for this interesting briefing.