Russian Navy Loads Missiles with Dangerous Cranes

Publish date: October 17, 2003

The old cranes used by the Russian Navy for ballistic missiles loading are a sure path to a "serious catastrophe."

This was stated in a September 30th letter by the Russian State Duma Committee for Defence Chairman Andrei Nikolayev, which was addressed to Deputy Defence Minister Alexei Moskovsky, head of the Arms Department of the Ministry of Defence, reported. In 2000, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had received a parliamentary inquiry on the necessity to allocate more money for construction and repairs of special cranes for the navy. In 1999, Russian Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroyedov had informed the Defence Ministry about the critical condition of the navy’s cranes, which are used for loading strategic weapons. In 1999, only three out of the Russian Navy’s 14 100-tonne cranes, and only 17 out of its 63 40-tonne cranes, were in operation. Loading and unloading ballistic missiles for submarines in the Northern Fleet could not be effectively carried out, Kuroyedov concluded in his letter, reported.

The source of the problem lies in 2000, when the ISTRIAN plant in Ukraine, the single producer of naval cranes in the former USSR, had not received payment from Russia for cranes it had delivered earlier. Russia apparently interpreted Ukraine’s plea for payment as a threat to its defence capability and cancelled the contract. A similar crane producer in Russia was not found, and at the Russian Parliament’s intervention, $8.3m was earmarked from the state budget to pay the debt. However, this money did not reach Ukraine, and since 2000, the ISTRIAN plant has constructed 19 more cranes for the Russian Navy on credit, eight of them already sent to Russia. While the military brass cannot solve their internal problems with the money transfer, the old and potentially dangerous cranes keep loading the nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles, the website said. The crane producer denies any responsibility for the old cranes’ operation. Specialists, meanwhile, do not rule out the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe, reported.