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  Secrets Behind the Walls
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   Doctor/The Post
Russian pathologist Lev Grinberg displays tissue samples that he says prove the anthrax was airborne.
(By David Hoffman – The Washington Post)
Today, at the entry to Compound 19 stand black wrought-iron gates, a soldier and high walls with concertina wire. But there is no sign, not even a nameplate, identifying the secret complex.

What's behind the high walls is still a matter of concern to some in the West who have raised questions about whether Russia has preserved any of the Soviet Union's offensive biological weapons potential. While no one believes that Russia has a biological weapons arsenal, the question is whether research into germ warfare is continuing.

The question is complex because research into a vaccine is extremely difficult to distinguish from work on an offensive germ weapon. The same equipment can be used for both, and a civilian lab can be rapidly converted into a bio-weapons facility.

The Sverdlovsk compound was believed to be the center for Soviet work on anthrax for many years. Perhaps because of the 1979 accident, part of the facility was moved to Kazakhstan, then a Soviet republic, in the mid-1980s. Yeltsin said he had urged Soviet officials to move it out of his region.

Today, well-informed Western sources say that some of the complex is now darkened and buildings closed because of lack of money. And the Russian government has insisted that it is now working only on defensive research, such as vaccines.

But high-level security remains around Compound 19, and one former official said there are signs of rebuilding inside.

Yevgeny Tulykin arrived at the compound the year before the anthrax epidemic and was in charge of personnel. He retired three years ago but still lives on the base. In an interview, he said that while the top officials maintain the laboratory is only involved in making defenses, such as vaccines, "we cannot say with certainty there are no combat materials being manufactured along with the vaccines."

"What is going on there now?" he asked. "To our information, there is still work on preparation of the vaccine against anthrax. But it is impossible to prepare the vaccine without having the aggressor agent." Tulykin said some laboratories are being rebuilt and restored inside the complex, although access is strictly limited.

Tulykin said he has been pressured to keep quiet by the authorities, but he has continued to speak out, in part because of a dispute over the dismissal of his wife from her job. "The officials until now have not allowed a single inspection over the threshold," he added. "Why?"

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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