- September 4, 2020
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject: Science and tech
Two years after coming in the spotlight after the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter YuliaSkirpal in Britain, the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok is back in the news.
- During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union and the United States were at loggerheads, the two were also aggressively developing weapons of mass destruction.
- In Soviet Union, the nerve agents were being developed under extreme secrecy, as part of a programme codenamed ‘FOLIANT’.
- One of the main reasons for the secrecy was to develop such agents whose components resembled ordinary industrial chemicals, so that they would not be detected using the standard 1970s and 1980s NATO chemical detection equipment.
- The chemicals used to make the agent are far less hazardous than the agent themselves, and therefore, it could also circumvent the Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control treaty that came into effect from April 1997 and has 192 countries as signatories.
- The first chemical weapon developed by the Foliant scientists was given the code name ‘Novichok’, which in Russian means ‘newcomer’.
- The nerve gas is 10 times more effective in killing people than the US equivalent, known as VX.