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SCIENCE: Russia’s chemical weapon stockpile infographic
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Russia’s chemical weapon stockpile

Graphic News

March 16, 2018 -- The Soviet-era State Scientific Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology is believed to be the source of the “Novichok” family of nerve agents that Britain claims was responsible for poisoning former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The institute’s 12-storey headquarters, known by the acronym GosNIIOKhT, is in south-east Moscow near the Aviamotornaya metro station and infamous KGB-FSB Lefortovo Prison.

In June 1990, during President Mikhail Gorbachev’s period of “perestroika” and “glasnost” (openness), Russia and the U.S. signed a bilateral U.S.–Soviet Chemical Weapons Accord.

In October 1991, Dr Vil Mirzayanov, a Soviet chemical weapons scientist who later turned whistleblower, revealed that Moscow had developed a series of new and extremely lethal “third generation” of binary nerve agents at GosNIIOKhT, under a secret programme code-named “Foliant.”

The reason being that the U.S. had successfully developed its Bigeye BLU-80B bomb -- a binary weapon to disperse nerve agent VX. Binary armaments contain two substances separately that mix to produce a lethal agent.

Mirzayanov claimed that the Kremlin planned to continue producing binary weapons after signing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993, using commercially available organophosphates used as fertilisers and insecticides.

Months after the CWC was signed, Novichok-7 was developed, produced and tested in Shikhany, a “closed” town and military research establishment in central Russia. Novichok-7 is about seven times more deadly than soman.

In 1992 Mirzayanov was jailed on charges of treason. He has been living in exile in New Jersey since the 1990s.

In 2004 President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making the GosNIIOKhT institute one of Russia’s strategic defence industries.

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