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The Soviet Program :

Quite unlike the US program, the Soviet program was, and still remains an enigma. It was only when President Yelstin took over the reins of power in Moscow that the program was officially confirmed.




Image : President Yelstin, the person who first publicly admitted to the exsistence of the Russian biological weapons program, and claimed to have ended it subsequently, taking the oath of office in 1992.


Almost all the information regarding the Soviet Program comes from Soviet scientists who defected to the US/UK during the cold war. Two of the top scientists , Ken Alibek and Valdmir Paschenik, defected to the US and UK respectively. A very interesting dialogue between Ken Alibek and Bill Patrick , who went on to become friends after Ken defected, can be read by downloading the "The Bioweaponeers" article from the site.

The Soviet weapons program was called "Biopreparat" and although no one knows for sure when the program started, knowledge of its existence became common only around 1973.

"Biopreparat" consisted of around 40 research facilities scattered all over the USSR. Ken Alibek estimates that around *32 thousand* people worked under him at Biopreparat. One of the largest laboratories was the VEKTOR lab, situated in Siberia. The VEKTOR lab was believed to have been active mostly in producing offensive viral weapons, including research on the deadly Marburg Virus, a close relative of Ebola.


Please click on the images to view larger versions.

1) A Soviet bioscientist working in VEKTOR at biosafety level 4, the highest level. Notice however the absence of any significant protection for the eyes. Safety levels at Soviet institutions are believed to be significantly lower than at their US counterparts.

2) The perimeter wall of VEKTOR. I haven't been able to find a photo of the entire facility. If you have come across such a photo (newspapers, books, on the internet), please scan it and send it to me. I'll be sure to acknowledge the contribution :)

3) Inside VEKTOR.


Accidents in Biopreparat were not uncommon. Ken Alibekov has described in detail how one of his colleagues in VEKTOR died after being infected with the Marburg Virus which causes rapid uncontrolled bleeding from all the body orifices including the nipples and anus, sending the affected person into hyovolemic shock and/or liver failure. In a more widely reported incident, an accident occurred  at a Soviet Bioweapons manufacturing facility in Sverdlosk in April 1979, releasing deadly Anthrax spores into the environment. Around 80-120 people died in the incident. The incident did not attain catastrophic proportions because Anthrax (unlike other bioweapons) does not spread from person to person.


Disclosure of the vast Soviet biological program was first made by Vladimir Paschenik (who was then the no.1 scientist in the program) when he defected to the UK in 1989. The disclosures, including research in the use of Y.Pestis (the microorganism which causes plague) as a biological weapon by the USSR resulted in tremendous pressure by the US and UK on the USSR to open its facilities for inspection by International agencies. In 1990, Gorbochaev formally agreed to the request. The American and British inspectors were stonewalled in their inspections, and although they found evidence of a huge program ( such as 40 fermenter tanks, each 2 stories tall in an institute near Moscow), actual knowledge of the program still remained unclear.

Image : A fermenter tank for Anthrax located in Kazakhstan which was photographed after the cold war. I was never more glad to see rust. 
You couldn't even be remotely close if you tried to guess the capacity : This particular tank is 3 stories high and can hold 20,000 liters of concentrated Anthrax liquid. And there were 5 such tanks in the same facility!
Click on the image to view a larger photo.


Ken Alibek (formerly known as Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov) defected to the US in 1991. Alibekov, when he was the no.2 in the Biopreparat facility was the inventor of the "Alibekov Strain" of the Anthrax bacillus. The "Alibekov strain" is one of the greatest  known "achievements", if it can be called that, of the Bioweapons program. This particular strain is known its rapid dispersion through air and high infectivity. A large load of anthrax prepared in this way would disperse very rapidly through the atmosphere, so that in a few minutes, the dispersed particles would be invisible to the naked eye. This ensures that in the event of a bioweapon being used, a large number of people would be initially infected. Although most bioweapons are designed with the problem of dispersion taken under consideration, the Alibekov strain is believed to be frighteningly efficient in this regard. 

Alibek also claimed to have developed a host of "Chimerical"  or hybrid organisms, like a hybrid of Ebola and SmallPox (EbolaPox) and Venezuelan Encephalitis and SmallPox (VeePox). He and the no.1 man in the US biological weapons program, Bill Patrick, went on to become good friends after the cold war. 

In 1992 , after President Yelstin came to power, he acknowledged the existence of the "Biopreparat" program. He also "officially" ended Russian efforts in this field.


However, the program still continues. In 1997, Russian scientists published information about genetically modified Anthrax strain in the International Journal "Vaccine". Even more troubling is the fact that after the Soviet break up, the Biopreparat program DID fall into hard times, with the monetary allocations gradually drying up. The scientists who were rendered jobless went to other countries in search of meaningful employment. Ken Alibek himself admits that no one knows where these people are. They might be in countries which are known sponsors of terrorism like Iran or Libya. Alibek also worries that some of this scientists took the "Alibekov formula" for manufacturing the deadly anthrax strain with them to the countries they went to...

All is not well as far as the Soviet/Russian Bioweapons program is concerned...