Russian who revealed poison-gas study is charged

November 01, 1992|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- A formal accusation has been brought agains the chemist who revealed the existence of Russia's secret poison-gas research program, the Itar-Tass news agency reported yesterday.

The accusation itself remained a secret -- as does the law that the chemist allegedly violated.

Yesterday was the 10th day that the chemist, Vil Mirzayanov, has spent in jail. Under Russian law, investigators had to bring full charges against him yesterday -- what Itar-Tass termed an "indictment" -- or release him.

Russian investigators had lodged an initial charge of divulging a state secret against him Oct. 23, the day after his detention began.

The news agency quoted Sergei Balashov, chief of the investigation board for the Security Ministry, as saying that the 57-year-old Dr. Mirzayanov would now remain in custody in the Lefortovo Prison here.

The Security Ministry is the successor agency to the Soviet KGB.

Dr. Mirzayanov was the co-author of an article titled "Poisonous Politics," that appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of Moscow News about the research program and the lab where it is carried out. He was interviewed for an article in The Sun that was published Sept. 16. A second Sun article on continuing research at the lab appeared Oct. 18.

After the October article was published, Dr. Mirzayanov and two other scientists, Lev Fyodorov and Evuard Saraisian, were detained. Dr. Fyodorov and Dr. Saraisian were released after they were questioned.

The Security Ministry said the Moscow News article "disclosed information about the situation with developments in the field of chemical technology, which constitute a state secret."

Dr. Mirzayanov's lawyer, Alexander Asnas, has not been allowed by investigators to see his client or review documents or the law pertaining to the case, on the ground that they involve state secrets.

"This is a unique case," Mr. Asnas said. "I have never dealt with anything like this. He has the legitimate right to be defended by the lawyer of his choice. This is a flagrant violation of procedural norm."

Three newspapers were raided after Dr. Mirzayanov's arrest, and material about chemical weapon research was seized. But a copy of an article seized from the weekly newspaper Argumenty Sakty was published Friday in Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

It directly contradicted statements by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader. As recently as September, in a statement delivered to The Sun, Mr. Gorbachev had maintained that while research may have continued, industrial production of chemical weapons stopped in 1987.

But Friday's article, written by Dr. Mirzayanov and Dr. Fyodorov before their detention, alleged that the Soviet government continued not only research but production of a binary nerve gas at a factory in Volgograd, an industrial city in southern Russia, until at least 1989, two years after the announced halt in production.

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