Yablokov: Suitcase nuclear bombs may have disappeared

Publish date: September 26, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

--The statements of general A. Lebed, on disappearance of suitcases with nuclear bombs, definitively have real grounds, wrote Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to Yeltsin, in a letter to newspaper

–The Russian military has lost track of more than 100 suitcase-sized one-kiloton nuclear bombs, said former Russian national security advisor Aleksandr Lebed in an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes in the beginning of September.

–The statements of A. Lebed, related to suitcases with nuclear bombs definitively have real grounds, wrote Alexey Yablokov in a letter to Russian "Novaya Gazeta" on September 9. It turned out that the letter was "lost" on its way to the newspaper office. On request, Yablokov passed over another copy of the letter, which was printed earlier this week.

According to Yablokov, the suitcase version of nuclear devices was created in the 70’s, on order from KGB (not GRU, as Lebed stated) to perform terror acts. These nuclear devices were not assigned to the Ministry of Defence and correspondingly was not taken into account in the negotiations on nuclear weaponry reduction. There were reports in the press, writes Yablokov, that similar mini-bombs were manufactured in the US, there called "rucksack bombs". In France, research aimed at creation of terrorist mini-nuclear weapons was prohibited by decree of President Mitterand.

–So, the statement of general A. Lebed apparently is not gibberish, concludes Alexey Yablokov.

The official reaction on Yablokov’s statement came from the Russian Ministry of Defenc during a briefing yesterday.

–There are no nuclear suitcases as such, claimed lieutenant-general Igor Volynkin. –Their creation is not possible due to high expenses even to such a rich country as the United States.

— All the nuclear devices, taken out of service or active, are securely stored at their alloted place. The possibility of their disappearance is practically excluded, said the general.

The lieutenant-general also added that the Ministry of Defence is the only power ministry in Russia which has been possessing nuclear devices.

Meanwhile, the draft on the law "On creation, application, decommission and securing of nuclear weaponry" passed preliminary hearings at the Russian Parliament yesterday. The law is the first attempt at establishing federal responsibility for the nuclear weaponry, and at defining the responsibilities for handling of nuclear devices among the federal state bodies.

According to the initiator of the law, Stepan Sulakshin, the implementation of the law would require annual allocations of some 13.5 million USD.