Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 86

Israeli officials have accused Syria– with Russian help — of beginning to produce VX, a more lethal nerve agent than the sarin nerve gas it is believed already to hold in large quantities. Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai on Tuesday said Israel had learned about the new Syrian agent a few months ago. Syria has not signed the chemical weapons ban that entered into force this week. (The [London]Times, April 30)

Last November Mordechai charged that Russian scientists were helping Syria manufacture nerve gases. A former high-ranking Russian officer, Lt. Gen. Anatoly Kuntsevich, is thought to have been connected with this effort. A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and former deputy commander of the Russian Chemical Troops, Kuntsevich was first promoted to general for his work in supervising the production of one of the Russian versions of VX. From 1992 to 1994 he was head of President Yeltsin’s Committee for the Problems of Chemical and Biological Weapons while at the same time trying his hand as an international businessman. Russian authorities investigated him for smuggling 800 kilograms of toxic chemicals to an unnamed country in the Middle East in 1993 and attempting to smuggle out an even larger shipment of chemicals in 1994. While they ultimately dropped charges against him, the U.S. in November 1995 imposed "chemical weapons proliferation sanctions" on him "for knowingly providing material assistance to a foreign chemical weapons program." (See the Monitor, November 18, 1996)

Military Drafts Another Reform Plan.