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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scientist: Ex-Soviet Union Has 500 Hidden Dumps

Russia and other former Soviet republics have about 500 hidden dumps containing undeclared, old chemical weapons, according to scientist and ecological activist Lev Fedorov.

Fedorov, president of the Union for Chemical Safety, called on the government to announce the existence of the alleged sites and begin destroying the weapons containing mustard gas and other chemicals, which were produced between 1915 and 1946.

"Our country is not answering its international obligations," Fedorov told a news conference Wednesday, referring to the responsibility of Russia and other signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy all chemical weapons stores.

"Our country is not answering its obligations to its own citizens."

Officials at the Munitions Agency responsible for destroying the nation's chemical weapons stores vehemently denied Fedorov's claim, saying that when Russia ratified the convention in 1997, it opened the country up to inspections to verify its chemical weapons stores.

"It's obviously delirium," said Alexander Gorbovsky, deputy director of the agency's department for Convention-related chemical and biological weapons problems. "There were more stores earlier, but that's history 60 to 70 years old. When we signed and ratified the convention, there were seven sites."

However, Gorbovsky acknowledged that there could be cases of environmental contamination resulting from former chemical weapons storage sites.

The government has estimated the cost of destroying the weapons at $7 billion, although Munitions Agency head Zinovy Pak has said costs could be trimmed by up to half.

Last week, Russian officials and foreign diplomats traveled to Shchuchye, in the Ural Mountains region, where the biggest chemical weapons destruction facility is planned.

The U.S. government has earmarked $888 million to help Russia destroy its chemical weapons stores, but Congress has withheld funding for construction at Shchuchye for two years to prod Russia and European nations to increase their shares of funding. Some members of Congress are also skeptical of the security threat the weapons pose to the United States, claiming that the real danger is potential leakage and environment# damage in Russia.

Fedorov said he had found information on the dumps in military archives and that some had already been partially excavated, including sites in the Moscow district of Kuzminki. He estimated that up to 20,000 metric tons of the weapons could have been "forgotten" by the military.