Russian workers sickened by chemical weapons

Four workers at a chemical weapons disposal site were hospitalized on September 11 after an accident exposed them to harmful neurotoxic gasses in north-central Russia.

Mikhail Manin, head of a regional department that oversees the observance of international treaties concerning the destruction of chemical weapons, told AFP that a probe has been launched into the cause of the accident. Marin believes it is possible that standard safety precautions were not being followed at the plant.

“On September 11, signs of intoxication by organic phosphorus compounds were detected in four employees,” Marin told AFP. “All four were hospitalized in a special hospital in Moscow and have already been released in a satisfactory condition.”

Information on the accident has only just been released to the public and press.

According to a website run by the regional government, the Maradykovsky chemical arsenal, where the plant is located and the accident occurred, contains approximately 40,000 weapons with organic phosphorus compounds, equivalent to 17.4 percent of Russia’s total chemical weapons arsenal. The arsenal is located near the major city Kirov, the administrative head of the Kirov oblast, or region.

The Communist party from the region disputed the official story behind the accident, claiming that it involved deadly sarin or soman gas, and that it affected at least 10 people. Both sarin and soman are toxic nerve agents, AFP reports. Production and stockpiling them was outlawed in 1993 by the United Nations Weapons Convention.