During World War Two and the cold war which followed, Russia was busy trying to create and later destroy weapons of mass destruction. Before the Soviet Union fell in 1991, tons of chemical weapons were discarded by the military and forgotten, and they are now an ecological threat. No one knows where they are, or how much of the deadly poisons are leaching into the air, water and soil. While publicly declaring the size of the stockpile, Russia and the Soviet Union have never accounted for bombs that were secretly dumped and destroyed in earlier years.
Russia has formally declared it holds about 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. The stockpile consists of 32,200 tons of nerve gases – sarin, soman and VX, and 7700 tons of lewisite, mustard gas and their mixtures. Most of which have been stored in small towns like Gorry and Leonidovka. At Leonidovka alone, there is more than enough nerve gas, if distributed by individual doses, to wipe out every human on Earth.
These chemicals have seeped into the soil and water bodies near by, like the Sursk Reservoir. To make the situation worse, the full extent of harm of these chemicals are unknown because of the lack of research in this area due to the lack of funding and interest the government has in the field. However, the effects of the chemicals are clear, with the increasing number of cancer, nervous and urinary diseases; the next generation is already feeling the effect. Moreover, in places like Gorry, the people are helpless, being too poor to move away or improve their situation.
The general Russian public has not been of much help either; the initial surge in citizen activism has died down with the worsening economic situation, with each man having to fight for his own. The people affected do want to speak out, but they are too afraid of the government, and their lack of information about the situation is another barrier.
Russia has promised to liquidate the declared arsenal of 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. It signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and ratified it in 1996. It calls for abolishing the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons and outlaws their use. Under the treaty, Russia and other nations agreed to destroy the weapons over 10 to 15 years. The United States already has begun destroying its stockpile of 32,000 tons of chemical weapons at two sites and is expected to finish by 2004 at a cost of about $13 billion. Other countries like Germany, Siberia and the Netherlands have also pitched in to help, but it isn’t enough.
The Russia's government is chronically short of cash, and the military establishment is collapsing for lack of money. Russia needs $5.5 billion to liquidate the chemical weapons, but in the last two years, he said, the government delivered only 2 or 3 percent of what was budgeted for the program, which is falling behind schedule.
"There is no way Russia can fulfill the convention," said Sergei Baranovsky, executive director of Green Cross Russia, an environmental group that has worked closely with the government. "Russia is left alone. It needs the help of the West.". "This is a global problem, and the world has to participate in overcoming it," said Valery Petrosyan, a chemistry professor at Moscow State University. “The world must help Russia destroy it."