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Russia, Kazakhstan Differ in Addressing WMD Legacy

(Washington, DC--February 11, 2003) A soon-to-be-aired documentary on weapons of mass destruction shows that progress has been uneven at best in the former Soviet Union in the effort to eliminate the threat these weapons pose to humanity, according to one of the film's associate producers.

Speaking at RFE/RL recently, Jeffrey Lilley, a journalist who worked on the Ted Turner Documentaries-produced "Avoiding Armageddon," said that his team was refused access to film weapon storage and production sites in Russia. As a result, the film focuses on Russian citizens who have either been affected by the chemicals or radiation associated with these weapons, and the ecological activists who struggle for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and the contamination they have caused -- "[these are] the heroes of our story," Lilley said.

Lilley believes that his documentary film crew was denied access in Russia for three reasons: the security concerns that arose in the wake of the September 11 attacks; the "culture of secrecy" which persists in Russia; and the reluctance of officials to reveal the "lack of security" at their weapons sites. According to Lilley, the footage the team was able to film was due to "guile, guts and good luck."

Filming in Kazakhstan, Lilley said, was much easier because the "situation is different than in Russia." Lilley lauded Kazakhstan for refusing to allow any testing of nuclear weapons since 1991 and giving up its nuclear weapons under the U.S. sponsored "Cooperative Threat Reduction" program. This program is popularly known as "Nunn-Lugar," after the two U.S. senators who sponsored the original legislation that created the program. Lilley said that Kazakhstan was open to the filming and his team was given wide access to former testing, production and storage sites.

The eight-hour documentary will be shown on PBS stations in 2-hour segments from April 16-19, 2003.