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BBC Monitoring
Moscow siege gas traced to Latvia - Russian TV
Source: TVS, Moscow, in Russian 1600 gmt 7 Jan 03

[Presenter] An unexpected scandal has erupted in Riga. Local journalists have demanded that an investigation be opened into where, on the order of Russian secret services, fentanyl, a sleeping gas, was sent from Latvia. They say that this very gas made in Latvia was used in the Dubrovskaya Street theatre rescue operation [on 26 October]. Igor Dmitriyev reports from Riga.

[Correspondent] The Riga Institute of Organic Synthesis is well-known for research and development of unique antiviral substances. However, it has only now become known that the institute's secret laboratories were working on orders from the military-industrial complex. In particular, it was here that the main component of the secret gas used during the rescue operation at the Dubrovskaya Street theatre centre in Moscow was synthesized.

Dr Eduard Lavrinovich, a former researcher at the institute, studied fentanyl for 15 years. He holds a patent on the most convenient formula for the synthesis of the pain drug, also used as an anaesthetic during operations. These properties of fentanyl meant it was much in demand during the Afghan campaign, especially in 1984-1985, when the fighting in that country was at its height.

Following the developments at the Dubrovskaya Street theatre centre in Moscow, especially those related to the storming of the premises and special means employed against the terrorists, Dr Lavrinovich has suddenly realized what substance was used.

[Dr Lavrinovich, speaking in Russian] Naturally, fentanyl may well have been used there. Take a look at this list of medical substances approved for use in the USSR. It says here how fentanyl works and what precautions should be taken etc. A halt to breathing comes not far beyond the pain-killing level. Naturally, they made mistakes. They should have acted to save everybody who could and should have been saved.

[Correspondent] The secrecy surrounding the gas is quite explicable, the scientist said. They want to keep it secret in order to use it again in similar cases. Unfortunately, the hostages affected by the gas during the rescue operation are still unable to get hold of an antidote.

[Margarita Dubina, former theatre hostage] Someone tipped the doctors off. They were told [about the gas used]. Sorry for the detail, but when I vomited at the hospital - and I do remember what colour it was - the doctors were glad. So they knew that I needed a gastric lavage to take the substance out. Therefore, they must have been told something. Whether they told the patients about it or not is another matter.

Knowing now what it was and where it came from, one knows that after-effects may come along later.

[Correspondent] Ironically, Margarita used to work at a factory producing fentanyl. She is sure that it is still being manufactured in Riga at the same location upon demand.

Back in Soviet times, the final product was manufactured in neighbouring Lithuania, in the town of Kaunas. The local press says that - during the troubled times of perestroika - fentanyl ampoules went missing from there. It cannot be ruled out that the Russian special services know where they went.

[Video shows Riga city scenes, people being interviewed. Also a caption saying that in 1970-1987 several million ampoules of fentanyl were produced in the Baltics.]

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