BIOHAZARD; the Terrifying Story of Russia's Deadly Germ Warfare Programme by the Soviet Colonel Who Ran It. DAY ONE OF A GRIPING NEW SERIES WHICH UNCOVERS SOME OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS OF THE COLD WAR

Daily Mail (London), April 17, 1999 | Go to article overview

BIOHAZARD; the Terrifying Story of Russia's Deadly Germ Warfare Programme by the Soviet Colonel Who Ran It. DAY ONE OF A GRIPING NEW SERIES WHICH UNCOVERS SOME OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS OF THE COLD WAR


Byline: KEN ALIBEK

FOR nearly 20 years he was privy to the Soviet Union's most closely guarded secret: its vast arsenal of deadly germ warfare weapons, targeted on the West and threatening millions with deaths of unimaginable horror.

Kanatjan Alibekov rose to become second-in-command of a secret military operation before he fled in 1992 to the U.S. Under the name of KEN ALIBEK, now aged 50 he lives near Washington DC with his wife and three children.

This is his chilling account of Moscow's deadliest military project . . .

ON A bleak island in the Aral Sea, to the south of the old Soviet Union, 100 monkeys are tethered to posts set in parallel rows stretching out toward the horizon.

Far in the distance, a small metal sphere lifts into the sky and shatters in a second explosion. Some 75ft above the ground, a cloud the colour of mustard begins to unfurl and glide down towards the frantic animals.

They pull at their chains and begin to cry.

Some bury their heads between their legs. A few cover their mouths or noses, but it is too late: they have already begun to die.

At the other end of the island, a handful of men in biological protective suits observe the scene through binoculars, taking notes.

In a few hours, they will retrieve the still-breathing monkeys and return them to cages, where the animals will be under continuous examination for several days until, one by one, they die of anthrax or tularemia, Q fever, brucellosis, glanders or plague.

These are the tests I supervised throughout the Eighties and early Nineties. They were the foundation of spectacular breakthroughs made by the Soviet Union in biological warfare.

BETWEEN 1988 and 1992, I was the first deputy chief of Biopreparat, the Soviet state pharmaceutical agency whose primary function was to develop and produce weapons made from the most dangerous viruses, toxins and bacteria known to man.

Biopreparat was the hub of a clandestine empire of research, testing and manufacturing facilities on more than 40 sites in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Nearly every government institution played a part the Ministry of Defence, the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, the Soviet Academy of Sciences, the Communist Party and, of course, the KGB.

And we were more successful than the Kremlin had ever dared to hope. Over a 20-year period, the Soviet Union built the largest and most advanced biological warfare establishment in the world.

Ironically, the programme began in 1972, the very year Moscow signed the international Biological Weapons Convention, which, along with the other 139 signatories, bound us 'not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain' biological agents for offensive military purposes.

Through our secret programme, we stockpiled hundreds of tons of anthrax, plague and smallpox for use against the West. What went on in our labs was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War.

Before I became an expert in biological warfare, I had trained as a doctor. The government I served saw no contradiction between the oath that all doctors take to preserve life and our preparations for mass murder.

For a long time, neither did I. But

I began to be disgusted by what I was doing and in 1992, after 17 years inside Biopreparat, I fled with my family to America. In numerous debriefing sessions, I provided officials in the West with their first comprehensive picture of our activities.

Most of what I told them has never been revealed in public.

IT IS horrifying when I think about the extent of the Soviet arsenal we built up. I remember one occasion, late in the winter of 1988, when I was called to a meeting at army headquarters in Moscow.

Lieutenant General Vladimir Lebedinsky was waiting with three colonels from the Biological Group, whose job was to arm missiles with the weapons we produced. …

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