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“The Moscow gas”: a German theory
Written by Владимир Гузман, Берлин   
Среда, 30 Октябрь 2002
In ‘BBCRussian.com’

German toxicologists assert that they have been able, with great probability, of revealing the secret gas that poisoned hundreds of hostages in Moscow.

According to a professor of medicine in Munich, Thomas Zilker, the Russian security services used the anesthetic halothane during the storming of the Moscow musical theater building.
As reported by Zilker, the presence of this gas was found in the blood of two German citizens who personally experienced the Moscow drama and were examined by a Munich clinic. Naloxone, which is considered an antidote for opiates, was also found in the victims’ blood.

It still remains a mystery as to why naloxone was administered to these German patients in a Moscow clinic.

Another mystery is why both affected Germans, while being poisoned, did not detect halothane’s particular sweet smell. “Either they had no time to feel a thing, since everything happened very quickly, or they do not remember a thing,” said Zilker. However, the professor admitted that other substances could have been used at the same time during the storming of the theater.

The same opinion is shared Munich anesthetist Eberhard Koch.

No guarantees

Halothane, according to the latter, is widely used in medical practice as an anesthesia agent, and in general cannot lead to death.

If a large overdose of halothane is administered, this may cause heart rhythm disturbances, vomiting and suffocation, as well as seizures on awakening. It is recommended that pregnant patients not receive halothane, because it may harm the fetus.

There does not exist an antidote for halothane. In case of overdose, the victim should be given pure oxygen. In addition, halothane dissipates very slowly, and, according to Koch, “it is not an optimal gas” in the context of such large facilities such as the music theater. “I cannot imagine that this gas was the only substance used,” said the German anesthesiologist.

Koch cannot say what other substances the Russian security forces may have used, but he clearly rules out military nerve agents, which are easy to determine in the blood.

Koch, however, could not absolutely guarantee that halothane was used in Moscow during the actual hostage rescue operation, since it could have been administered later in clinics while providing assistance to the victims.

Zilker informed his Russian colleagues in Moscow about the results of his research — by e-mail and by fax. No reaction or feedback has yet been received from the other side. He did, however, offer his services to the Russian Consulate.

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