Practice Relating to Rule 73. Biological Weapons
The Russian Federation’s Military Manual (1990) prohibits bacteriological (biological) weapons. It refers to the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
The Russian Federation’s Regulations on the Application of IHL (2001) states: “The following shall be prohibited to use in the course of combat operations: … bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons.”
During a tripartite meeting on biological weapons held in Moscow in September 1992 between the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Russian President admitted that the Russian Federation had conducted an offensive biological warfare programme in violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
However, the Russian Government stated that it had taken steps to resolve compliance concerns, stating that it:
A. Noted that President Yeltsin had issued on 11 April 1992 a decree on securing the fulfilment of international obligations in the area of biological weapons. This affirms the legal succession of the Russian Federation to the obligations of the Convention and states that the development and carrying out of biological programs in violation of the Convention is illegal. Pursuant to that decree, the Presidential Committee on Convention-related problems of chemical weapons and biological weapons was entrusted with the oversight of the implementation of the 1972 Convention in the Russian Federation.
B. Confirmed the termination of offensive research, the dismantlement of experimental technological lines for the production of biological agents, and the closure of the biological weapons testing facility …
H. The Russian Parliament has recommended to the President of the Russian Federation that he propose legislation to enforce Russia’s obligations under the 1972 Convention.
As a result of these exchanges, the Russian Federation agreed to the followings steps:
A. Visits to any non-military biological site at any time in order to remove ambiguities, subject to the need to respect proprietary information on the basis of agreed principles. Such visits would include unrestricted access, sampling interviews with personnel, and audio and video taping. After initial visits to Russian facilities there will be comparable visits to such US and UK facilities on the same basis.
B. The provision, on request, of information about dismantlement accomplished to date.
In addition, the three governments agreed to create working groups to examine several different issues, including the establishment of a system of reciprocal visits to military biological facilities; a review of potential monitoring mechanisms for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention; consideration of cooperation in developing biological weapons defence and “consideration of an exchange of information on a confidential, reciprocal basis concerning past offensive programmes not recorded in detail in the declarations to the UN”.
On Primetime Live in 1998, the former First Deputy Director of Biopreparat from 1988 to 1992, Dr Kanatjan Alibekov (a.k.a. Ben Alibek), stated that in the Russian Federation, under the guise of the development of defensive biological weapons, research continued on new biological agents. In Moscow, this allegation was described as “sheer nonsense” by one member of the President’s Committee on CBW Convention Problems, who also said that “Russia has carried out no research and development of biological weapons since all work in the field was cancelled in 1990”.
The Russian Defence Ministry also issued a denial, saying that the Russian Federation “scrupulously observes” the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
In 1998, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told a news briefing that the offensive military biological programme of the USSR had been discontinued.
At the Fifth Review Conference of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention in 2001, the Russian Federation asserted that it was standing “for creating a verification mechanism on a multilateral basis”.