Milton Leitenberg: In Gennadiy's initial presentation, there was lots and lots of time devoted to Vozrozhdeniya Island. Before, after. One thing that was not mentioned was the Soviet burial and attempted total destruction of stocks of anthrax on Vozrozhdeniya Island. That he did not discuss. Now, he presumably does know that the Americans went there twice after, opened up these ditches, re-decontaminated. You use a mix of chlorides and formaldehyde, and stir it all up in the ditch. You leave it in the ditch. He didn't discuss this. Does he know about that? But much more important... much more important: did he know when the material was brought there, and the ditches dug, and the stockpiles put in, and did he know where it came from? That's the important part.
Gennadiy N. Lepeshkin: I am aware of all of this from the literature and from the Internet. I was not personally involved in that work, so I can tell you [only] what I know and tell you my opinion. According to the data available, this work was done in 1989, when it was already clear that all existing materials needed to be destroyed, and that biological weapons would be a thing of the past. And these were, apparently, reserve stocks of anthrax that were being warehoused in Russia. Since the test site was... belonged to the military, what was considered the most convenient place, uh, was chosen, there, specifically, a location not far from the lab. Eleven ditches were dug there, in which the containers were placed. The containers were... the contents of the containers were treated, the containers were all treated, and the soil was also treated. But very few people knew about it at the time,.. however, as they say, the truth will out: and when glasnost came, then it was discovered that such an operation had indeed been carried out, containers were loaded onto train cars, delivered to the island and buried. In 2002, the government of Uzbekistan concluded an agreement with the United States whereby six million dollars were allocated and those ditches were opened up for analysis. Equipment was placed there, and modest-sized excavators, tractors and vehicles, and those ditches were opened up, uh, and the containers, and samples were taken to test the ability to survive... of samples of the microorganisms, and then later on they were re-treated... there was disinfection even of the soil on those parcels of land, and then everything was buried again, only this time it was more precise... that is, according to the published data, the Americans found strains, live strains, and these strains turned out to be unstable...weakened strains, which, basically, were well... someone who is vaccinated, uh, against anthrax, will be able to withstand those strains. They were quite weak.
Leitenberg: Did he know when it took place in '89? Did he know about it at that time, or only later?
Slava Paperno (interpreting): In 1989, when the material was buried, were you informed? Did you know about it?
Lepeshkin: The work was classified, and a very small number of people were involved in doing it.
Leitenberg: Sure. Right. Just the military.
Lepeshkin: And no one was informed of it.
Paperno: Well, you know your way around the island quite well, Gena... although you weren't there and didn't see any of that, can you imagine that it would be possible for train cars to be brought there?
Lepeshkin: No, there were no train cars that were brought there. Everything was sent by plane. Everything was sent there by plane.
Paperno: Already in the containers?
Lepeshkin: Of course. The containers were loaded up, and they, the containers...
Leitenberg: We have pictures of them. We use pictures of them.
Lepeshkin: 250 kilograms...
Paperno: Of what?
Leitenberg: The containers.
Paperno: We have pictures of what? Start from the beginning.
Leitenberg: When people went, Doctor Zelinsky, who is my co-author, went to visit Stepnogorsk, and containers are still stocked... stashed up, you know... piled... I don't know what the right word is. They're standing along a fence, and he took a picture of himself next to the containers. There's big containers, and little containers. The big ones are as big as a person, the little containers are half-size. So, yes.
Paperno: They are full of what?
M. Leitenberg: No, they're just empty containers.
Leitenberg: No, no, no, no. They've never been used. Like if you deliver oil barrels to a factory, they put them in a... in a storage yard. No, no, no. These are... these were never filled.
Paperno: Can you... Do you understand what he's talking about?
Lepshkin: Yes, of course.
Paperno: So, can you explain why those empty barrels were in Stepnogorsk?
Lepeshkin: Well, those containers were meant for the formula. But they were used for storage, we kept gasoline in them, we kept various things... alcohol, for example, in some of them and in some of them, disinfectants. That is, they were used on an everyday basis at our facility for materials we needed to run the operations.
Paperno: Way back then, or after 1992?
Lepeshkin: No, back then too. We just didn't need them. We didn't produce a lot. We were prepared to, but we didn't make such large stocks that we needed to use those containers for storage. They were meant for transporting the stuff. But we didn't have that much output.