Yeltsin wants to remove all submarines from the entire Barents region

Publish date: May 27, 1998

- We do not need nuclear-powered submarines now. We can remove all submarines from the entire Barents region, said Boris Yeltsin at an improvised press conference at the Kremlin yesterday.

Yesterday, the Norwegian King Harald V held a meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin. The meeting focused among other things on the radioactive waste problems in the north of Russia.

– Ecological problems that Russia has in the north-west, including nuclear submarines and nuclear waste, are of great importance for Norway. All this is so close to the Norwegian border, Reuters quoted King Harald as saying.

Boris Yeltsin assured the gathered reporters that "Russia does not need nuclear-powered submarines now" and that "they can be removed from the entire Barents region". Later Yeltsin’s press spokesman and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yevgeny Primakov explained that their President actually referred only to already decommissioned submarines. The operative ones will continue patrolling the seas, nobody plans to remove them, said the officials decoding Yeltsin’s statement.

Nevertheless, on May 27, Norwegian and Russian government officials, watched by Yeltsin and King Harald, signed an agreement on environmental protection covering the use of nuclear submarines. Yeltsin later that day called the agreement "a historic one".

– We must solve the financial question. If the financial side is solved in the form of credits from the Norwegian side, we will immediately start dismantling the submarines," Itar Tass quoted Yeltsin as saying.

The Norwegian officials guaranteed such "credits".

Ninety-five Northern Fleet submarines are laid up and await decommissioning. Most of them have still nuclear fuel inside their reactors. The accidental storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andreeva Bay is situated 40 kilometres from the Norwegian boarder. Due to the scarcity of funding, the radiation safety issues in the region are growing each year, increasing the risk of accidents.