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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 18, September 1997

New Claims by Lebed over Russian Nuclear Arsenal

On 5 September, Russia's Defence Ministry denied the latest claim from former national security chief Alexander Lebed about the lack of security surrounding Russia's nuclear arsenal. Lebed, during an interview for CBS television broadcast on 7 September, stated that 100 1-kiloton nuclear bombs, described in reports as 'suitcase-sized', were unaccounted for: "I don't know their location. I don't know whether they have been destroyed or whether they've been sold or stolen... [They could be] somewhere in Georgia, somewhere in Ukraine, or somewhere in the Baltic countries. Maybe outside those countries." Defence Ministry spokesperson Vladimir Uvatenko countered:

"As a representative of the Defence Ministry I declare - there are no nuclear bombs in Russia out of control of the Russian armed forces. ... This statement by Alexander Ivanovich can cause nothing but a smile - he never dealt with nuclear security questions and cannot know the situation."

On 7 September, US State Department spokesperson James Foley told reports there was no cause for alarm:

"The government of Russia has assured [us] that it retains adequate command and control of its nuclear arsenal and that appropriate physical security arrangements exist for these weapons and facilities... We have been assured by the Russian authorities that there is no cause for concern. We believe the assurances we have received."

Reports: Yeltsin foe says Russia lost nukes, Associated Press, 5 September; Defense ministry denies nuclear bombs are missing, Reuters, 5 September; No official US concern over Russian arsenal, Reuters, 7 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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