Chemical warfare museum opens after reconstruction |

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Chemical warfare museum opens after reconstruction

Chemical warfare museum opens after reconstruction

Equipment, weapons and gear are on display in the chemical warfare museum that was reopened to the public in the Czech military chemical unit's barracks in Liberec after a reconstruction on the unit's 100th anniversary of establishment yesterday.

"In the museum, the visitors can see the development of the chemical warfare unit and its specialisations since 1918 until the present era. They can see how the unit, its protective means and masks developed," Robert Dolozim, an officer from the 31st regiment of the radiation, chemical and biological protection, told CTK.

There are about 20 types of masks alone. The museum will be open several times a year. Dolozim said the organisers want it to have regular opening hours in the foreseeable future.

"However, it is a military compound with a certain entry regime, and this must be legally settled first," he said. These days, the Czech military marks 100 years since the establishment of its gas service and chemical unit.

To compare the equipment from that time, used in World War One, with the contemporary equipment is like comparing a car made in 1920 with a modern car, Dolozim said. "Nevertheless, they used it in the war, and the equipment and protective means did help them. But soldiers face different tasks at present," he said.

At present, a combat would probably take place on an asymmetrical battlefield, which means that "the development of protective means, too, must react to the turbulent period of the 21st century," Dolozim said.

The chemical unit has been seated in Liberec for 67 years now. It ranks among the elite in the Czech military.

Until 2022, the unit is to acquire a half of the planned supply of 80 light reconnaissance armoured vehicles for the detection of radiation, chemical and biological substances worth over five billion crowns.

The chemical unit also has a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory for the detection of toxic and radioactive substances, drugs and explosives. It cost 160 million crowns and the Czechs acquired it within a U.S.-subsidised programme.

The then Czechoslovak chemical warfare unit gained an excellent reputation after its deployment in the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

 "We detected some dangerous substances there and the whole world found out that the Czechoslovak military had chemical experts who are skilled. Afterwards, they [other armies' representatives] were arriving for two years to see our reconnaissance vehicles, devices, special equipment and laboratories, because the world hardly had anything similar at the time," said Jiri Vanicek, who was the Liberec-based unit's commander in 1989-1994.

He said a number of things have changed since, such as the share of women among the unit's members. There were two in the early 1990s, while there are some 100 now. "This is about 15 percent and the share is still rising," the regiment's current commander, Libor Svec, said.

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