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Biological Weapons

Biopreparat, the agency in charge of the program, was established in 1973, a year after the Soviet Union signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Biopreparat consisted of some forty research-and-production facilities, including a dozen major complexes. The staff was more or less evenly divided between development of new weapons and work on cures and antidotes. At its peak, the former Soviet Union had the world's largest biological warfare program, with somewhere between 25,000 and 32,000 people employed in a network of 20 to 30 military and civilian laboratories and research institutions.

Biological agents were developed and stockpiled for delivery by a variety of means, including long-range missiles. Special cooling systems in the warheads protect the biological agents during re-entry. Parachutes slow the warhead, whcih at a set altitude dispense over a hundred small bomblets. At least twenty tons of weapons-grade dry smallpox was stockpiled in bunkers for loading into these and other delivery systems.

President Boris Yeltsin, in a statement on 29 January 29 1992, reaffirmed Russia's commitment to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. He informed Western leaders about the former Soviet biological weapons programs, and issued a decree which banned biological programmes and mandated Russia's compliance with the convention.

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