Thursday, February 26, 2009


While I was writing my book “State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program”, some people from Washington persistently advised me not to include the formulas of the chemical agents of the Novichok series in my book. These formulas were unknown to all countries of the world except for Russia, and they are not on the Control List of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

It seems that some people thought it would be much better if we just ignored Novichok and its precursors. Then we could count on the goodwill of the Russian Government.

I asked why it would be a bad idea to publish this information, since it would be for the safety of all people. Then the governments would work to have those chemical agents and their precursors included into the Control List. They responded, “Terrorists could use them for their criminal actions.” This kind of reasoning is used all the time now to scare people and prevent any discussion. We are already used to ignoring a lot of real problems thanks to that.

I reminded these people that the formulas of VX gas, sarin and soman have already been published. In some books it is even possible to find the basics of the production technologies of these agents. No one tried to give me a logical counter-argument or even make a good point. I suspect that the reason for this is that these people really have no real knowledge about their topic of conversation – chemical weapons. Oterwise, they wouldn't have adviced the UN Commission on Irak to go Saddam Husein's palaces before Bush's invasion, to look for his secret chemical agent factories.

To begin with, let’s consider the probability of the production of chemical agents by terrorists. In reality, production is an extremely tricky, dangerous and high-tech business. Can any serious chemical engineer or scientist imagine that this production could take place in an underground bunker, without highly trained and qualified personnel, and without extremely strict safety measures, somewhere in the Swat Valley in Pakistan? It’s not even science fiction, but a pure lie, because of the nature of these agents. Anyone who tried to synthesize and produce them this way would most likely kill himself.

In GOSNIIOKhT, the Russian center for developing chemical weapons where I worked for 26 years, all scientists and engineers, including the departmental and laboratory chiefs, had to pass safety exams every year. The technical personnel had to pass them every six months. The strictness of the technical measure in the laboratories and factories that produced chemical weapons was unprecedented. Even under these circumstances, there were many victims and the consequences were often lethal. My friend Andrei Zheleznyakov died after being poisoned with the Novichok agent A-232, even though he was very experienced and was observing all safety measures.
Formulas in books cannot replace experience, highly qualified engineers and the technological secrets of production. Without them, everything is absolutely useless.

My colleague, Mr. Lippman, who was once the chief engineer at the Volgograd factory for the production of chemical agents in Russia, told me about how the Soviets brought a whole factory for the production of sarin over from Germany after World War Two. With the assistance of two German engineers, they tried to begin the production of sarin there, but it took 6 years for it to get started up. The start up of the small pilot plant for the production of the Soviet VX-gas – known as Substance 33 – took more than 8 years. The experimental production of chemical agents like sarin and VX-gas in Iraq were also an instructive example. After the Gulf War, my colleagues from GOSNIIOKhT along with some Western scientists found some bombs filled with sarin and VX-gas, but in reality this was pretty much pure garbage, consisting mostly of the products of decomposition! It is known that some German businessman sold the technologies and assisted them in their start up, but the primitive technological level of the country made it impossible for anything noteworthy to be produced.

Another reason why it is impossible for terrorists to use chemical agents is that they cannot create weapons from them. Chemical weapons are chemical agents carried in sophisticated bombs or rockets that have reliable delivery systems or launchers. In the case of binary weapons, two chemicals must be mixed together perfectly during flight. The mixing and temperature need to be carefully controlled. Only special military personnel can operate them with minimal risk of poisoning or death. Also, it is impossible to send chemical agents out in envelopes, as someone did with anthrax spores in the US.

So far only the Aum Shinrikyo cult was able to use sarin gas, which has a relatively high volatility, to stage a series of coordinated attacks on the Tokyo Metro in 1995. Twelve people died, and up to 6000 more were injured or poisoned. It is clear this happened because of flaws in the security system of this metro. The volatility of both Novichok and VX-gas are hundreds of times less than that of sarin. For that reason, it is impossible to the same kind of methods Aum Shinrikyo did, and release them, exposing targets. In conclusion, it is clear that chemical agents cannot be used by terrorists, because of their lack of accessibility, their difficulty of manufacture, the lack of delivery systems and the danger posed to terrorist operators.

All of the advice people gave me not to publish formulas of the Novichok chemical agents, based on the argument that terrorists would use them, does not ring true. These agents should be acknowledged and immediately put under the control of the OPCW, the organization that administers the Chemical Weapons Convention. We need to stop mystifying chemical weapons and the non-existent biological weapons. It is time to stop scaring the American people with imaginary problems, in order to blindly extract as much money as possible from them for protection. If you look at the funding these scare tactics have generated for various projects, I am sure that some of them were necessary, but you can also be sure that some unnecessary pet projects of lobbyists were also included.

All these funds should be redirected for practical measures that will truly improve the security of our country and protect us from real danger.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

About my book


New Book Reveals How One Man Blew the Whistle on Russia’s Chemical Weapons Program – And Shocked the World

January 13, Denver, CO and Princeton, NJ – Vil S. Mirzayanov made international headlines for blowing the whistle on Russia’s illicit chemical weapons program, bravery that later landed him in prison on trumped-up charges of revealing “state secrets.” Now, a stunning autobiography sheds new light on the incident – widely regarded as the “first test” of Russian democracy – and the mystery-shrouded operation that produced some of the world’s most insidious killing technology.

“State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program” (Outskirts Press; takes readers behind the scenes and into the ominous halls of GOSNIIOKhT – the Soviet Union’s and, later, Russia’s most advanced chemical weapons laboratory. And it provides fresh insights into the personalities, political machinations and intrigue surrounding the country’s military industrial complex.

For decades, GOSNIIOKhT produced some of the most lethal substances known to man. Then, researchers there developed something that would top the entire world’s nerve agents: dubbed Novichok – for “newcomer” – these binary nerve gasses were at least 8 to 10 times as powerful as any other chemical weapon. Despite Russia’s leaders’ assurances to the contrary, they were lying to the international community and to their own people. Until now Novichok has remained cloaked in secrecy and has evaded control by the Chemical Weapons Convention, placing its effectiveness in doubt.

Spurred by the sense that he was involved in a criminal enterprise, and by concerns over the facility’s environmental side-effects, Mirzayanov went public with details of the weapon in Russian newspapers in 1991. After an interview with the Baltimore Sun and an article in Moscow News, authorities took notice – and promptly sent the mild-mannered chemist to the notorious Lefortovo Prison in 1992. What followed was a sensational story for the Russian and Western press and an early litmus test of the Russian government’s commitment to openness, honesty and democracy.

State Secrets documents in compelling detail Mirzayanov’s epic struggle for justice in a country whose legal system was still more firmly rooted in Kafka than a constitution. How he managed to triumph from within a cramped prison cell, rally international pressure around him and become the first person in 70 years to actually sue the Russian government is ultimately a story at least as compelling as the development of Novichok.

While many of Mirzayanov’s revelations and arrest have been well documented, never before has there been such a complete account of how Soviet and Russian elite military and scientific institutions functioned as told from the inside. Incompetence, nepotism – and above all – fear, prevailed, as Mirzayanov shows in this richly detailed and engagingly told account. But against this backdrop, great courage was also possible – from the scientists who joined the Russian democratic movement to the journalists who told the truth to an entire world for the first time.

“State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program” is now available through Ingram, Baker & Taylor,,, and the online bookstore of Outskirts Press, at

Book Statistics
PB: 978-1-4327-2566-2
HB: 978-1-4327-1923-4
Suggested Retail Price(s):
PB: US$29.95, CAN$37.95
HB: US$43.95, CAN$54.95
Size and Format(s): 6 x 9 Paperback, 6x9 Hardback w/Jacket
Page Count: 624

About the Author: Vil S. Mirzayanov was born in 1935 in a rural village in Bashkortstan, Russia. He is the recipient of numerous scientific and civic honors, including the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award, the Cavallo Foundation’s award for Moral Courage in Business and Government, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 and currently lives in Princeton, NJ.

Author Contact: Visit him on the Web at

About Outskirts Press, Inc.: Outskirts Press, Inc. offers full-service, custom self-publishing services for authors seeking a cost-effective, fast, and flexible way to publish and distribute their books worldwide while retaining all their rights and full creative control. Available for authors globally at and located on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, Outskirts Press represents the future of book publishing, today.

# # #
Outskirts Press, Inc., 10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why I published my book?

There are two kinds of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear and chemical weapons. I’m not going to talk about biological weapons, because they don’t exist. Even when Russia was intensively developing biological agents, they were never actually weaponized and tested.

My subject is chemical weapons, which consists of chemical agents and their delivery systems (like rockets and bombs). The modern world has been familiar with chemical weapons for almost two centuries. Their widespread use in war has caused millions of atrocities. The Soviets and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq used them to kill their own people.
Three times, a number of European countries crafted conventions for outlawing the development, production and testing of chemical weapons. The most recent one was signed in the 1993. Also was set up a List of controlled chemical agents and their precursors. Unfortunately, scientific research in this extremely dangerous area was not banned.

I am a physical chemist, and I was employed for almost 26 years at Russia’s foremost center for developing chemical agents – GosNIIOKhT in Moscow. I participated in all stages of activity, including scientific research work on the development of new chemical agents, and the production and testing of the final chemical weapons. My last position there was as the head of the Technical Counterintelligence Department of the Military Chemical Complex. I saw that the goal of the leaders of the Military Complex was to eliminate all useless old chemical weapons at the expense of the West and to keep hidden its new generation of chemical weapons, under the Code Name of Novichok.

Up to this point, Russia had developed, tested and started production of the binary chemical weapons, including the Novichok series which are up to 5-8 times more powerful than those known before. In a binary chemical weapon, two relatively harmless precursor chemicals are mixed in a rocket in flight to produce a deadly agent for delivery. One military advantage of binary weapons is that the dangerous end product does not have to be stockpiled. The binary precursors can be produced in normal factories that make agricultural chemicals like pesticides.

A Novichok chemical agent is different from VX-gas, sarin and soman. Also Novichok and its precursors are not included in the List of controlled chemical agents. On the eve of the signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention, I saw this gross omission was a great lie, so I published my first article in the Russian newspaper Kuranty, to warn the whole world about this fraud. The only result was that I lost my job.

In September of 1992, I co-authored another article published in Moscow News, called “A Poisoned Policy”, which was published the same day as an interview I gave to the “Baltimore Sun”. Shortly after that, I was arrested for disclosing state secrets and sent to the KGB’s notorious Lefortovo Prison. For the 2 ½ years that followed, I was supported by a campaign of many people (mostly scientists, politicians and human rights activists) in Russia, in the US and Europe who protested my arrest and prosecution. I spent a month in a maximum security prison called Matrosskaya Tishina and the rest of the time under house arrest, until my trial in early 1994. My case was dropped, because of lack of evidence. Ultimately I emigrated to the United States.

I wanted to help the American Government to know and understand more about the Novichok weapons program, but surprisingly the CIA treated me as if I were a spy, with extremely insulting questions. Despite that and with serious reservations, I supported the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention by the US Congress, hoping that Novichok and its precursors would eventually be included into the list of chemicals prohibited by the convention.

I have waited 14 long years in vain. This is strange to me, because so many people supported me in my struggle against these extremely dangerous Russian chemical weapons. Ultimately, there is no result whatsoever. I even wondered if the US and Russia came to some kind of secret agreement to keep silence about the issue.
In these circumstances, I didn’t have any choice but to write book “State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program” where I published the real chemical formulas of Novichok agents for the first time.

One of the main goals of the book is a retool the OPCW (the United Nations agency that is charged with implementing the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention) for real control of the Novichok chemical agents. For the sake of the world’s safety.

I also hope to warn people that by allowing countries like Russia to continue scientific research in the field of chemical agents, that we left a big loophole for clandestine violations. With the development of new chemical technologies, such as nanotechnology, there are probably no limits to the size of deadly molecules that can be synthesized and used as chemical agents. Nanoparticles can be directly exposed to the victims from the air, without the need to vaporize or aerosolize chemical agents. Theoretically, it’s also possible that some kind of nanoparticles could be used to break through a gas mask. It’s not surprising that GosNIIOKhT has been included into the List of so-called system-creating enterprises of Russia, by Putin’s administration. GosNIIOKhT is also currently working in the secret part of a governmental company on nanotechnologies.

Apparently, for this reason, the Military Chemical Complex of Russia appointed a young general from the Directorate of the Chemical Troops, Mr. Kondratiev, to the post of Director of GosNIIOKhT. To look more like a civilian manager, he even “retired” from the Russian Army.

I would also like to emphasize that there is no longer any need to test new chemical weapons on an open polygon. Everything can be modeled in a laboratory with the proper equipment.