Sergei Volkov has been examining an incident in April 1979 at Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) in which a cloud of poison escaped from a biological weapons production plant. The victims, stricken with internal bleeding, died within a day.
For years, the Soviet authorities maintained that the anthrax outbreak came from bad beef at a local market. But in 1992 Boris Yeltsin - head of the regional Communist Party when the catastrophe happened - confirmed suspicions that it involved biological weapons.
Although the KGB confiscated the victims' death certificates and hospital records, Mr Volkov managed to obtain documents. After interviewing scores of residents, he claims the death toll was close to 1,000, ten times the official count. He also says he has confirmed suggestions that men were three times more likely to contract the disease, and that no children were affected.
Mr Volkov's cause has been championed by Lev Fyodorov, a chemist who played a part in exposing Russia's chemicals weapons programme four years ago. In claims which raise questions about the contents of Iraq's arsenal, the two men yesterday said the anthrax germs may have been engineered to attack adult males. Alternatively, tsome other disease, possibly viral, may have been involved.Reuse content