1. Two Last Oscar-I Russian Nuclear Subs Have Been Scrapped
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Zvezdochka shipyard completed dismantling of the two Oscar-I nuclear submarines sponsored by the UK.
The specialists of the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk have completed dismantling of the two Oscar-I nuclear submarines, project 949, K-206 Murmansk and K-525 Arkhangelsk. The German company RWE NUKEM, operator of the project, confirmed the completion of the project which was financed by the Great Britain, which allocated $15 m total for the project. The empty reactor compartments have been already shipped to the temporary storage facility in Sayda Bay on the Kola Peninsula. Sevmash started dismantling of these submarines one year ago, Interfax reported on January 19.
The Design Bureau Rubin in St Petersburg developed the Oscar-I class submarines. Originally, it was planned to build 20 nuclear submarines of this type, but in reality only two were constructed as an upgraded 949A project was developed instead.
The two submarines, K-525 and K-206, were both assigned to the Northern Fleet and having their home base in Bolshaya Lopatka, Zapadnaya Litsa Bay on the Kola Peninsula. K-525 was commissioned in 1980, and K-206 in 1981. Both submarines had been waiting for dismantling from 1998 till January 2004 in Severodvinsk.
1. Course to Help Ex-Soviet Bomb-Makers Find 'Peaceful' Work
The Press Association
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Nuclear weapons scientists from the former Soviet Union have begun studies at a UK university designed to help them pursue a “more peaceful” line of work, it emerged today.
It is estimated that the dismantling of the USSR in the early 1990s left between 15,000 and 30,000 unemployed physicists and engineers with the training and know-how to build nuclear bombs.
The course at De Montfort University in Leicester is part of an international effort to prevent the Cold War legacy leading to a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Prompted by fears that the untapped expertise could fall into the wrong hands, the G7 group of the world’s wealthiest nations set up a “global partnership” in 2002 to stop the spread of WMD.
As part of that, the UK Government set aside £4 million a year on a joint British-Russian venture aimed at finding the jobless Soviet experts different, less deadly occupations.
Chris Bailey, human resources expert for DTI consultancy company P-E International, said: “The UK Government recognises the threat to global security posed by the potential proliferation of nuclear expertise, and nuclear material, from Russia’s close nuclear cities and set up the project to help the commercialisation of technologies and creation of new jobs for former weapons engineers and scientists.”
Now, as part of the DTi’s Closed Nuclear Cities Programme, De Montfort University is running the UK’s first course for ex-Soviet bomb-makers.
Senior figures from Russia’s closed nuclear cities, plus nuclear institutions in the republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Ukraine, are taking part in the Business English and Contract Negotiations course.
Participants in the course admit the collapse of the Communist state in 1991 left the new, independent republics ill-prepared to compete in the international markets.
The scheme’s aim, say organisers, is “to create commercially based, self-sustaining, non-weapons related employment and help the other countries involved to commercialise technologies”.
Over the next four weeks, the delegates will learn how to write commercial correspondence, use the internet for business, cross-cultural awareness and language for international negotiations, devising market strategies and information analysis.
Kairat Kadyrzhanov is the most senior member of the group as director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan.
He said: “We live in new times with a new direction for our country to a market economy. More and more of my job is committed not to science and physics but to new products that our interesting for our population.”
The university course was first run last year but it is only now, in its second year, that the Government has agreed to go public.
David Boydon, course manager and head of the Centre for English Language Learning, said: “I am just very pleased to be involved in it.
“The enthusiasm and dedication they show as students proves their commitment to this project. In only three days we have seen an improvement not only in their English, but in their awareness of the business skills which they will need.”
Nuclear weapons scientists from the former Soviet Union are re-training for "more peaceful" work in the UK.
Experts who once built bombs aimed at the capitalist West are learning about business and cultural awareness at De Montfort University, Leicester.
The dismantling of the USSR in the 1990s left up to 30,000 nuclear weapons engineers and scientists unemployed.
The course is part of an international effort to prevent a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Prompted by fears that the untapped expertise could fall into the wrong hands, the G8 group of the world's wealthiest nations set up a "global partnership" in 2002 to stop the spread of WMD.
The UK government has set aside £4m a year for a joint venture with Russia.
The collapse of the communist Soviet state in 1991 left independent republics ill-prepared to compete in international markets.
Senior figures from Russia's 10 "closed nuclear cities", plus nuclear institutions in the republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Ukraine, are taking part in the Business English and Contract Negotiations course.
The closed cities were created from the late 1940s onwards to develop the Soviet nuclear weapons programme.
Until the end of the 1980s, residents enjoyed standards of living significantly above that of the general population.
But, since the early 1990s, economic and social conditions have deteriorated, with further job losses planned.
The De Montfort scheme's aim is "to create commercially based, self-sustaining, non-weapons related employment".
During the four-week course, scientists will learn how to write commercial correspondence and use the internet for business.
They will also be taught about "cross-cultural awareness", language for international negotiations, devising market strategies and information analysis.
Kairat Kadyrzhanov, director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan, said: "We live in new times with a new direction for our country to a market economy.
"More and more of my job is committed not to science and physics but to new products that are interesting for our population."
3. Soviet Nuclear Scientists Get 'Retrained' in Leicester
(for personal use only)
Some of the biggest brains behind the Soviet Union's cold war nuclear weapons programme are taking part in a new university course to help them find "more peaceful" careers.
The dismantling of the USSR left an estimated 15-30,000 physicists and engineers highly trained in nuclear weaponry. The new course is part of an international attempt to prevent this part of the cold war legacy leading to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The De Montford University course will train the students in skills for the international business environment such as the writing of commercial correspondence, using the web for business, cross-cultural awareness and language for international negotiations, devising marketing strategies, and information analysis.
It is a small component of a global effort by the G7 group of the wealthiest nations to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The UK government has promised £4m a year to work on programmes to retrain nuclear scientists from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, among other countries.
Senior figures from Russia's closed nuclear cities, plus nuclear institutions in the republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Ukraine, are taking part in the business English and contract negotiations course.
Kairat Kadyrzhanov is the most senior member of the group as director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan.
He said: "We live in new times with a new direction for our country to a market economy. More and more of my job is committed not to science and physics but to new products that are interesting for our population."
Other participants include researchers, scientists and public servants from the Ukraine and Uzbekistan as well as the five closed nuclear cities: Sarov; Seversk; Snezhinsk; Ozersk; and Zhelenznogorsk.
The scheme's aim, say organisers, is "to create commercially-based, self-sustaining, non weapons-related employment and help the other countries involved to commercialise technologies".
David Boydon, course manager and head of the Centre for English Language Learning, said: "I am just very pleased to be involved in it.
"The enthusiasm and dedication they show as students proves their commitment to this project. In only three days we have seen an improvement not only in their English, but in their awareness of the business skills which they will need."
A U.S. arms-control organization agreed Monday to supply the money for a railroad bridge necessary for Russia to destroy nearly 2 million chemical munitions stored in desolate southeastern Siberia.
Once completed, the project will involve the United States, Canada, Britain and Russia. Mainly Russian experts will handle the destruction, getting rid of weapons ranging from artillery shells the size and shape of wine bottles to warheads for Scud missiles. Most are armed with the nerve agents Sarin, Soman and VX.
The $1 million grant from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, or NTI, is the first contribution by a non-governmental entity to a 2-year-old undertaking by the Group of Eight leading industrial nations to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
"The real key here is issue of global cooperation," said Laura Holgate, a chemical weapons specialist and NTI vice president. "Dealing with threats of mass destruction, the threat is to everyone, and no individual nation can handle the threat alone."
The weapons to be destroyed are considered among Russia's most lethal chemical weapons and prone to proliferation because, unlike nuclear weapons, they lack serial numbers.
Michael Kergin, Canada's ambassador, who signed the agreement with NTI, said this and other projects under the G-8 and Nunn-Lugar destruction programs are critical to keeping weapons "out of the hands of terrorists and those who would harbor them."
Canada is pooling the initiative's money with $25 million of its own to build an 11-mile rail spur between a massive Russian chemical weapons storage depot at Planovy and a U.S.-financed destruction facility at Shchuch'ye — sparsely populated towns in Siberia near Kurgan, just north of the Kazakhstan border. NTI's money is to pay for a trestle across the Miass River.
The United States is financing construction of the destruction facility at a cost of about $1 billion, money from the 1991 Nunn-Lugar program for dismantling weapons of mass destruction. Canada is building the railroad because Congress has refused to allow Nunn-Lugar money to be used for infrastructure projects. Overall management of the project will be by the British Defense Ministry.
Former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who cosponsored the project, said, "These dangerous weapons need to be destroyed as quickly as possible, and I am pleased that we could partner with the Canadian government on this important project."
Weapons such as those being destroyed at Shchuch'ye are banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the United States and Russia ratified in the 1990s. The earliest chemical weapons convention, in the late 1920s, banned only their use on the battlefield, not their possession.
Russia's declared stockpile of 40,000 tons of chemical weapons, mainly modern nerve agents, is the world's largest. They are dispersed among seven sites.
It's an expensive operation to get rid of them.
Eliminating the Russian caches is expected to require at least $10 billion, probably more. The United States has been destroying its chemical weapons since the 1970s, so far is rid of only one-third of them, and already has spent $16 billion.
Among U.S. counterterrorism officials, it is the ultimate nightmare scenario: al-Qaeda detonating a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city. Osama bin Laden says it is a religious duty to obtain a bomb, and most experts believe that if al-Qaeda were to succeed, the group wouldn't hesitate to use it. Though building even a crude nuclear weapon is time consuming, the wide availability of raw material and scientific expertise means that it is plausible for terrorists someday to get their hands on one. "The simplest nuclear bomb," says Ivan Oelrich, director of the security project at the Federation of American Scientists, "is very simple indeed."
The biggest hurdle is getting the material that causes the nuclear explosion. For a basic nuclear weapon, terrorists would need about 100 lbs. of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium (HEU).
Fortunately, manufacturing HEU is extremely difficult. Refining it requires vast industrial facilities, top-flight engineers and the kinds of resources available to a government but not to rogue terrorist groups. Unfortunately, many states have already done the hard work, creating 1,800 tons of HEU that is housed at research facilities, weapons depots and other storage sites in as many as 24 countries, according to William Potter, director of nonproliferation studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Of greatest concern is the more than 300 tons of HEU in the former Soviet Union. Some of the material may have already gone missing: since 1991, there have been seven attempted thefts reported of small amounts of bomb-grade material and more than 700 reported thefts of unrefined nuclear material. In Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 1998, Russian intelligence uncovered a plot by employees at a nuclear facility in the region to smuggle out 40 lbs. of HEU for sale on the black market.
With sufficient fissile material in hand, a trained engineer could build a crude device without too much difficulty. The most basic design is that of the Hiroshima bomb, which fired two pieces of HEU at each other from opposite ends of an artillery tube. The bomb could be assembled at a basic machine shop and would fit in the back of a truck. If smuggled into the U.S. and detonated in a major metropolitan area, such a weapon could kill hundreds of thousands.
Not everyone believes the danger is imminent. Last August, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov dismissed concerns about the security of Russian HEU as "just a myth." However big the threat, critics say President Bush has yet to tackle it head-on.
"The Bush Administration has failed to declare war on nuclear terrorism," says nuclear expert Graham Allison, a former Clinton official. The Bush Administration is expected to earmark about $400 million this year for securing nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. Over the past two and a half years, international teams of nuclear experts have retrieved more than 230 lbs. of bomb-grade uranium from such countries as Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Romania, Libya and the Czech Republic. But at its current pace, Allison charges, the effort to secure all Russian nuclear weapons and fissile material will not be complete until 2020. Critics of the Administration say the U.S. should pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to get more aggressive about securing nuclear material in his country. "We're in a race between cooperation and catastrophe," says former Senator Sam Nunn, who helped create the 13-year-old U.S.-Russian program to destroy Russia's surplus HEU before it falls into the wrong hands.
The world may not have much time. In the months before Sept. 11, bin Laden and associates met in Afghanistan with a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmoud. At one meeting, according to an account made public by the White House, a bin Laden associate indicated he had nuclear material and wanted to know how to use it to make a weapon. Mahmoud provided information about nuclear-weapons programs, the White House said. In an interview with the Associated Press, Mahmoud's son said his father had rebuffed bin Laden. The bad news is that he is surely still trying.
A government probe into lucrative illicit weapons sales by officials loyal to former President Leonid Kuchma has led to secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable missiles to Iran and China, a high-ranking intelligence official said Friday.
The deals with Moscow-allied nations — which violate international nonproliferation treaties — put pressure on Ukraine's new president to halt the country's well-established illegal arms trade as he tries to boosts ties with and join NATO and the European Union.
President Viktor Yushchenko has promised to investigate illicit weapons-dealing, including a U.S. allegation that Kuchma approved the sale of a sophisticated Kolchuga radar system to Iraq despite U.N. sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime. Kuchma denied the allegations.
Ukraine's intelligence agency, the State Security Service, launched its investigation of the case involving Iran and China on Feb. 14, 2004, during Kuchma's presidency. But the probe was not publicized until this week, when lawmaker Hrihoriy Omelchenko — a reserve colonel in the intelligence service — wrote Yushchenko asking him to pursue a full investigation. Omelchenko made his letter available to The Associated Press.
Six missiles purportedly ended up in Iran and another six allegedly went to China, although export documents known as end-user certificates recorded the final recipient of some 20 Kh-55 missiles as "Russia's Defense Ministry," according to Omelchenko's letter. He didn't say what happened to the eight other missiles.
The missiles allegedly sold to Iran were unarmed, but are designed to carry 200-kiloton nuclear warheads. Western nations have accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, an allegation Tehran denies. China is a declared nuclear weapons state.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko and Defense Ministry spokesman, Col. Vyacheslav Sedov, said Ukraine had not informed Russia of the allegations that missiles meant for Moscow had been diverted, and that Moscow would await Ukraine's investigation. Russia's state arms export company, Rosoboronexport, declined comment.
Omelchenko's letter to Yushchenko and another to the prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Piskun, refer to a Ukrainian Security Service report that includes details of the allegations.
At least three people were arrested and another three were indicted last year in connection with the illicit arms trade — including some of those mentioned by name in the letters — according to the intelligence official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
According to Omelchenko, in 2000 Russian national Oleg Orlov and a Ukrainian partner identified as E.V. Shilenko "exported 20 Kh-55 cruise missiles through a fake contract and end-user certificate" with Russia's state-run arms dealer and with a firm called Progress, which is a daughter company of Ukrspetseksport — Ukraine's weapons exporting agency.
Last year, Ukrainian prosecutors indicted Orlov and Shilenko in absentia for illegal weapons trading, the intelligence official said. Orlov was detained on July 13 in the Czech Republic.
There's an ongoing extradition procedure to return Orlov to Ukraine for possible prosecution, a spokesman for the Czech Justice Ministry, Petr Dimun, confirmed Friday. Dimun said the procedures were interrupted recently because Orlov suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized, although he's "recovering well."
Shilenko remains at large, said Omelchenko, which also notes an attempt on Orlov's life, saying, "The physical elimination of Orlov in a Czech prison was prevented."
The State Security Service has also issued an official inquiry about a Cyprus-based Russian identified as G.K. Shkinov, who remains at large. "The law enforcement bodies of that country (Cyprus) are performing an investigation," Omelchenko wrote.
Three Ukrainians also were detained last year in connection with the deal, and the case was forwarded to a Kiev court, Omelchenko wrote.
Orlov is reputed to be a prominent weapons broker. In its 2001 report, the U.N. Security Council implicated Orlov and his Cyprus and Dubai-based E.M.M. Arab Systems Ltd. company in sanctions-busting related with ferrying weapons and supplies to Angola's rebel UNITA group.
The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, has a range of 1,860 miles and is designed to carry a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield. Iran does not operate long-range bombers but it is believed Tehran could adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. The missile's range would put Israel and a number of U.S. allies within reach.
Ukrainian weapons dealers ferried missiles to China through a Ukraine-based cargo company run by a former secret service agent, according to Omelchenko. He also said that in 2001, weapons dealers sent ground targeting systems, maintenance equipment and missile technicians to Iran.
Profits from the sales were estimated at $2.1 million or more.
Valery Malev, the head of Kiev's export agency Ukrspetseksport, has been implicated in the deals. He died in 2002 when his car collided with a truck. Police concluded he fell asleep behind the wheel, but many speculate his car had been tampered with.
"Valery Malev, the head of Ukrspetseksport, knew that missiles were not exported to Russia but to third countries and with forged documents," Omelchenko wrote.
A multimillion-dollar deal involving sales of oil-processing equipment to Iran was used as a mask for the sales, Omelchenko claims. They add that a Cyprus-based company, S.H. Heritage Holding Ltd., and Iran-based Satak Co. Ltd. were involved in the concealment.
Internet search and telephone inquiries turned up no information about the companies.
S.H. Heritage owner Haider Sarfraz, an Australian national, died in a 2004 car accident, Omelchenko's letters say. They do not specify where the accident occurred.
Although Ukraine in the 1990s renounced the nuclear armaments it inherited in the breakup of the Soviet Union, the country remains a sizable producer of weapons, including missiles, aircraft and tanks. The country has long been under scrutiny for murky weapons deals.
In 2000, the United States accused Ukraine of selling infantry weapons to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Russia has charged Ukraine with doing the same for Chechen rebels.
Kuchma acknowledged in 2001 that $32 billion worth of Ukrainian military hardware had found its way illegally into international arms markets during the 1990s.
Last year, Ukrainian police arrested four men, from Greece, Pakistan and Iraq, on suspicion of attempted illegal weapons trading and hiring mercenaries in a deal worth more than $800 million for an unspecified force fighting in Iraq.
And in 2004, former Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk warned that several hundred Soviet-built SA-2 surface-to-air missiles brought to Ukraine for decommissioning were unaccounted for.
On October 30 2001, a crowd of US and Ukrainian officials gathered in Pervomaisk, southern Ukraine, where, together with local schoolchildren, they set off an explosion that destroyed the last nuclear missile silo in the former Soviet republic.
The spectacular ceremony was supposed to mark the end of Ukraine's membership of the nuclear weapons club. But hopes it would lay to rest western fears that Soviet weapons left in Ukraine might fall into the wrong hands appear to have been dashed. At least 26 nuclear-capable cruise missiles, emptied of their atomic warheads, ended up on the international black market if allegations aired this week by amember of Ukraine's parliament are true.
Grigory Omelchenko, who has investigated other Ukrainian arms-trading cases, says the SBU secret police are prosecuting one of its former officers, identified as Mr V.V. Yevdokimov, for selling 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles between 1999 and 2001 - six each to Iran and China - and attempting to sell 14 more last year.
Designed to be launched by Russian Tupolev bombers, the Kh-55s (known as AS15s in the west) can fly up to 3000km, hugging the ground to avoid air defences.
The SBU has declined to comment. It says only that Mr Yevdokimov was arrested last April and charged with "smuggling military goods outside Ukraine in 2001 and other crimes". Mr Yevdokimov headed the air cargo company UkrAviaZakaz.
Mr Omelchenko claims senior former government officials were also involved and he is demanding the SBU reveal more information about the investigation.
A US State Department spokesman declined to comment on the reported investigation into the Kh-55 affair. But he noted that preventing missile proliferation was an important element in the "war on terror" and that "Ukraine is a partner with us in this war". The Kh-55s could prove troublesome for Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's new president, who is eager to bury the country's image as the leading source of black-market arms. In his election campaign, Mr Yushchenko promised to "say goodbye" to arms-trading and other scandals. His predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, was implicated in an alleged plan to sell $100m (€77m, £53m) worth of Kolchuga advanced early warning radars to Iraq.
The man who allegedly proposed the deal, Valery Malev, then head of Ukraine's main arms-export company, died in a car crash soon after a recording implicating Mr Kuchma surfaced. Mr Kuchma insisted the tape was forged; the US said it was authentic.
Other recordings made by the former guard, Mykola Melnychenko, allegedly revealed Mr Kuchma discussing the distribution of kickbacks under the UN's oil-for-food programme and deliveries of "Grad" surface-to-air missiles to Iran. The US never found any Kolchuga radar systems in Iraq, though a report by former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer last year said Yuri Orshansky, a Ukrainian businessman, had been one of Saddam Hussein's main arms suppliers.
UN weapons inspectors had previously documented Mr Orshansky's involvement in arms deals dating back to 1993 as well as a visit by Iraqis to a nuclear research laboratory working on weapons-grade uranium.
The Ukrainian government stripped Mr Orshansky of his status as honorary consul to Iraq, after international media publicised his weapons trading, but he continued to arrange illegal arms deliveries right up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to Mr Duelfer. Ukrainians have also been implicated in arms shipments to rebels in Sierra Leone.
Yesterday US officials said they looked forward to increased co-operation from Ukraine on preventing weapons proliferation and other issues. Additional reporting by Guy Dinmore in Washington
3. China Mum on Report of Acquiring Nuclear-Capable Missile
World News Network
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China today declined to comment on an Ukrainian lawmaker's allegation that it was among those countries which received nuclear-capable cruise missiles in violation of international non-proliferation treaties.
"I have not seen relevant reports," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said in a cryptic one-liner when asked to comment on press reports on this issue.
In his letter to Ukraine's new President Viktor Yushchenko, Hrihory Omelchenko a senior lawmaker said an investigation launched last summer "proved that some 20 air-launched Kh-55 and Kh-55M cruise missiles with nuclear capability were exported to third countries" in contravention of international treaties.
"Six missiles destined for Russia ended up in Iran ... six missiles destined for Russia ended up in China," the letter said. It said the sales occurred in 2000-01, according to western media reports.
The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, has a range of around 3,000 km and is designed to carry a 200-kilotonne nuclear warhead.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will press her hardline case over Iran's nuclear ambitions with Russia on Saturday after saying the United States has no plans for an imminent attack on the Islamic republic.
On her first trip abroad as the top U.S. diplomat, the Soviet specialist will meet her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Turkey as the Bush administration pressures Moscow to keep on hold a fuel supply deal for an Iranian reactor.
"We, of course, have worked ... with the Russians. And their efforts to cooperate with the Iranians on civilian nuclear power have been much more attuned recently to (our) concerns about the proliferation risk," Rice said on Friday in Britain on the first leg of a 10-stop trip to Europe and the Middle East.
"While it does not eliminate the proliferation risk, it certainly does help to mitigate (it)," she added.
Washington fears any Russian fuel supply to a reactor Iran is building in its southern port of Bushehr would move Tehran closer to acquiring a bomb under the cover of a civilian program.
Oil-rich Iran denies it is developing such a weapon and says its nuclear programs are for peaceful power generation needed to meet the energy demands of its growing population.
Rice, who has sought to allay fears of a possible military strike, says Russia's decision against delivering the fuel is part of the international community's diplomatic strategy against Tehran.
Asked in London, if the United States was considering military action to end Iran's programs, Rice said, "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point in time -- we have diplomatic means to do this."
Her response, which left the door open for the future -- was unlikely to reduce global tensions over a nation President Bush branded in an "axis of evil" with pre-war Iraq and North Korea.
CARROT AND STICK
Europe -- with U.S. acquiescence -- has offered economic incentives to Iran in a proposed deal to ensure Iran does not pursue the atomic bomb.
And if those talks fail -- as similar ones did last year -- the United States wants Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible international sanctions that would have to be approved by Russia.
Some hardline U.S. officials see the Russian supply deal as crucial to avoiding an escalation of the crisis.
They warn that Israel might strike its longtime foe should any deliveries be made, noting the Jewish state hit Iraqi facilities when former President Saddam Hussein reached a similar stage in nuclear development decades ago.
Rice's week-long trip also seeks to repair ties with nations like Russia that were frayed because of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year.
She will fly from Germany, which opposed the war, to Poland on Saturday to thank Warsaw for sending its troops into Iraq.
From there she travels on to Turkey, Iraq's neighbor, and a top U.S. Muslim nation ally where she plans to have dinner with Lavrov.
The Russian-US relations are at the crossroads, Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies, opined during a news conference at RIA Novosti, characterizing the current state of the bilateral relations.
"The meeting of the Russian and US presidents in Bratislava can either bolster our relations or result in a sharp chill," Mr. Rogov believes.
According to him, the recent speeches by US President George Bush (his inaugural speech and State of the Union Address) are very tough ideological rhetoric to be followed, however, by an approach far more pragmatic than the one pursued by George Bush during his first tenure.
Mr. Rogov believes the positive impetus given to the Russo-American relations after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has worn off.
"There has been a large-scale anti-Rusisan front comprising various political forces," the expert said. These forces call vociferously for "thwarting Russia's neo-imperialist ambitions in the world".
Moreover, the United States and Western Europe can be on the same side of the fence.
"Europe and the United States cannot agree on anything but this issue. The US-European relations can be bolstered at Russia's expense," Mr. Rogov said.
He opined that the evolving democracy in Russia would come into the foreground during the upcoming summit meeting in Bratislava. He also said that the meeting of the Russian and US presidents might be followed by a steep increase in financing Russian nuclear, chemical and biological weapons disposal programs.
"Speeding up the program will sure to be on the agenda," Mr. Rogov said.
He believes there may be the Iran and North Korea affairs among the international problems on Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush's agenda.
"If the nonproliferation regime is touched upon during the talks, Russia can opt for close cooperation in this sphere. If the United States mean toppling the North Korean and Iranian regimes, I am sure we will not help the Americans," Mr. Rogov said.
In his view, there are many more spheres for the Russian-US relations, which could serve the groundwork for a new, more efficient cooperation.
"These fields may include Russian-US cooperation in WMD proliferation prevention and the establishment of a man-made and natural disaster rapid-reaction and disaster relief system," the expert commented.
Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy director for planning and international affairs of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), announced here on Monday that the Russian Atomic Energy Agency Director Alexander Rumyantsev will visit Tehran on February 25-27.
Rumyantsev is due to hold talks with Iranian officials on comprehensive nuclear cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, Saeedi told the Mehr News Agency.
He noted that during the visit, both sides would agree on a definite date for opening the Bushehr nuclear power plant, adding talks on the construction operations required to build the plant’s second unit are also on the agenda.
Saeedi said that Rumyantsev is scheduled to visit the Bushehr power plant.
The IAEO official also said the sides are due to sign the contract on returning the plant’s spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
Spokesman of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, Nikolai Shingarev, had announced earlier that Russia is ready to build 7 nuclear power plants in Iran that would cost 10 billion dollars.
2. Source: Russia, Iran May Sign Nuke Deal This Month
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Russia is preparing to sign a deal with Iran this month to start atomic fuel shipments for a Moscow-built nuclear reactor there, a Russian nuclear source said on Monday.
The move is certain to enrage the United States which says Iran can use Russian fuel to secretly make a nuclear bomb. Washington has long called on Russia to drop the plans.
The source in Russia's Atomic Energy Agency said Moscow and Tehran had largely settled all remaining technicalities and were preparing to sign the accord when Alexander Rumyantsev, the agency's head, travels to Iran at the end of February.
"This time the deal will be signed. Of course you can't be 100 percent certain about anything but the probability of that is very high," said the source, who is close to the Iran talks.
The comments confirmed earlier hints by Moscow-based diplomats that Russia and Tehran had overcome disagreement over the deal's terms and were moving closer to signing it after years of talks.
The source said the first containers with fuel would be supplied about two months after signing.
The 1,000-megawatt, $1 billion plant will be then launched in late 2005 and reach full capacity in 2006.
Spent fuel will be sent back to Siberian storage units after about a decade of use -- a condition Russia thinks will remove U.S. concerns that Iran would use the material to make weapons.
TVEL, Russia's state nuclear fuel producer, has for years kept the fuel for Iran's Bushehr plant at a storage facility in Siberia, awaiting Rumyantsev's order to begin shipments.
Oil-rich Iran denies it is developing atomic arms and says its nuclear programs are for peaceful power generation needed to meet the energy demands of its growing population.
On Sunday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said there was nothing the West could offer Tehran that would persuade it to scrap a nuclear program.
3. Russia Insists On Commercial Conditions of the Return of Spent Nuclear Fuel from Iran
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During his visit to Iran scheduled for the end of February, head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Alexander Rumayantsev will discuss a commercial deal on the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, announced the press service of the federal agency.
Earlier, during the preliminary talks on the subject, the Iranian side announced that it was not interested in the return of the spent nuclear fuel to Russia and, therefore, was not prepared to pay for the return of the fuel to Russia. The global commercial market of the return of spent nuclear fuel was established long time ago, and Russia will particularly insist on commercial conditions of the return, the Rosatom press service emphasized.
If the agreement on spent nuclear fuel is signed in February, Iran will start sending the spent fuel back to Russia not earlier than in eight years.
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi announced that Russia and Iran had reached mutual understanding on the issue of the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr nuclear power station to Russia.
"The Russian and the Iranian sides have reached understanding on the issue of the return of spent nuclear fuel, which will be supplied by Russia for the first power generating unit of the Bushehr nuclear power station," Mr. Assefi told journalists on Sunday.
According to the Iranian official, "all we have to do now is to prepare and sign an official agreement between Russia and Iran on the return of spent nuclear fuel."
4. Russian Spent Nuclear Fuel Will Be Returned From Iran to Russia
(for personal use only)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi announced that Russia and Iran reached mutual understanding on the issue of the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr nuclear power plant to Russia.
"The Russian and Iranian sides have reached understanding on the issue of the return of spent nuclear fuel, which will be supplied by Russia for the first power generating plant of the Bushehr nuclear power plant," Mr. Assefi told journalists on Sunday.
According to the Iranian official, "all we have to do now is to prepare and sign an official agreement between Russia and Iran on the return of spent nuclear fuel."
"Experts are nearing the final stages of the solution of this issue," the Iranian diplomat added.
The construction of the first power generating plant at the Bushehr nuclear power plant by Russian specialists is one of the key cooperation projects between Moscow and Tehran in the economic and scientific-technical sphere. The construction is entering its final stage at present. The initial launch of the facility with an estimated power-generation capacity of 1,000 Megawatts is scheduled for the end of 2005. It will become fully operational in the beginning of 2006.
It is expected that head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev will travel to the Iranian capital in February-March to sign the Russian-Iranian agreement on the return of spent nuclear fuel.
1. New Nuclear Submarines to Sail Without Bulava Missiles
(for personal use only)
Alexander Belousov, Russia's first deputy defense minister, recently announced that the Navy would receive two strategic nuclear submarines equipped with state-of-the-art Bulava (Mace) ballistic missiles, Novaya Gazeta writes.
However, the Bulava only exists on paper. Its general designer Yury Solomonov recently said that the first missile would not be test-fired before 2006. This means that the Navy will only get the new weapons about four years later, so the Yury Dolgoruky and Dmitry Donskoi submarines will have to sail without them.
The former's keel was laid in 1996, whereas it took more than ten years to modernize the latter. The Navy's command did its best to complete both submarines when the money to do so appeared, which testifies to the Defense Ministry's inability to plan long-term. At the same time, ministry officials constantly complain about financial problems. General Belousov said that the military received just 25% of the required combat-training appropriations.
Civil control seems essential. At times, the military squanders taxpayers' money because parliament allocates money without knowing how it will be spent.
State Duma deputies voted obediently to set aside 187 billion rubles for the army's weapons-procurement program this year ($1=28 rubles). The Defense Ministry's board then held a session on how to use the money. It was eventually decided to commission the Dolgoruky and the Donskoi without missiles.
1. Russian General Prosecutor Wants to Tackle Environmental Problems
(for personal use only)
The Russian general prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov suddenly realised that ”river Techa brings death to the local people”, nuclear storage facilities in Murmansk region are not tight enough, and promised to launch criminal cases.
Russia lacks order in handling of radioactive waste and nuclear material, the general prosecutor pointed out at the expanded collegium of the General Prosecutor’s office, RIA Novosti reported on January 21. “Murmansk's nuclear waste storage sites, holding as much as 17,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste, were built back in the 1960s, and have by now become outdated both morally and physically” Ustinov added.
Ustinov also informed about the situation with Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant in Chelyabinsk region, and Techa River which “brings death to the locals today and to the future generations”. The general prosecutor ordered his deputy in the Urals region Yury Zolotov to examine the situation around the Mayak plant, “to get those who does not take measures preventing the catastrophe threat” and “if needed launch criminal cases”.
Following Ustinov’s order, the Chelyabinsk region prosecutor Alexander Voytovich initiated a working group on examining the fulfilment of the environmental legislation at the Mayak plant and Techa reservoirs. The group includes the members from the Chelyabinsk prosecutor’s office and the Urals department of the General prosecutor’s office. They are examining the documents on the plant’s activity, reports from the environmentalists and the state environmental agencies. Some enquiries to the FSB (former KGB) have been also made. The prosecutors are mostly concerned about the budget money, which have been allocated to the Mayak for environmental projects during the recent 10 years.
According to some sources, the sudden attack of the general prosecutor might be directed towards new priorities in nuclear industry financing. For example, to take money from construction of the Beloyarsk NPP and send it to the South Ural. Otherwise, it is hard to find explanations of the general prosecutor’s actions.
The press secretary of the Mayak plant Yevgeny Ryzhkov said to UralPressInform agency that the plant operates as usual without any accidents. “Judging by the general prosecutor’s speech, it’s been decided not to look for the possibility to solve
2. Fall-Guy Found for November Panic Over Balakovo Nuclear Power Station
(for personal use only)
Saratov Regional Prosecutors have brought charges against the author of an anonymously posted web site for spreading what the criminal code defines as disseminating false information about an industrial accident at the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), fixing guilt for the panic - that was spread in the wake of a mishap in November - on one person.
Saratov prosecutors have meanwhile declined to file similar charges against the plant itself, which did nothing to mollify fears of hundreds of local residents and issued dozens of contradictory statements about the state of the plant. A leaking pipe in the plant’s coolant system in reactor no. 2 was eventually established to have triggered an emergency shutdown of the plant’s second reactor unit.
Authorities and the defendant’s former employer have declined to identify him in full. Prosecutors said only that he was a 23-year-old information technologist from the Samara based information laboratory Wenses. His former co workers at Wenses, when contacted by Bellona Web, would identify him only as “Sergei.”
An ‘ordinary emergency’ reactor shut down causes widespread panic Reports about a supposedly common reactor shut down at the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant in Russia’s southwestern Saratov region led to wide-spread panic resulting in overdoses of iodine taken by the fearful against possible radiation poisoning, and showing up the lack of coordination within the country’s emergency notification system.
The information posted by Sergei gave a completely unclear and dubious picture of the situation developing at the plant, but in the hours following the emergency, his site accidentally emerged to fill the vacuum of deafening official silence.
The emergency shut-down at the Balakovo plant – situated some 700 kilometers southwest of Moscow - occurred during the early morning hours of November 4th around 1 a.m. The malfunction caused wide-spread panic among residents of nearby cities and villages.
Many residents, with Chernobyl fresh in the memory, refused to believe the contradictory offical information that was eventually issued and, according to local press reports, awaited the shadow of a radioactive cloud from the Balakovo plant. Emergency workers were evidentially unprepared for what may or may not have been about to happen and authorities at all levels clashed on how to handle the situation.
People identifying themselves as being from the Civil Defence (CD) and Emergency Services (EC), called schools, universities and other institutions, saying people should take iodine. It’s still unclear, whether they really were emergency officials but in the lack of information following the Balakovo incident, it is possible that even officials did not have reliable information and thus overcompensated by suggesting what emergency measures to take.
Residents, meanwhile, flooded drug stores and cleared shelves of iodine as a prophylactic measure against an initial influx of radiation poison, but had little information – both from emergency officials or nuclear authorities about how to correctly use the potentially dangerous substance. As a result, several local suffered iodine overdoses.
The panic continued late into the night until Presidential Plenipotentiary for the Povolzhsky Federal District Sergei Kiriyenko was shown on television gripping the repaired pipe with his hands.
By November 5, the Saratov Region had already filed criminal charges under Article 207 of the Russian criminal code “On Spreading False Information about an Act of Terrorism”. As Nina Gellert, public relations secretary for the Saratov Regional Prosecutors’ office explained to Bellona Web, the article deals not only with terrorism, but also with any false information about situations that could endanger significant numbers of people.
The answer from A. S. Kovalyov, inspector for especially important cases in the Saratov Regional prosecutors' office to the complaint of 23 NGOs.
Complaint 23 of NGOs
Russian social and non-governmental organisations say that the reason for the panic was the information vacuum surrounding the incident and the clearly contradictory statements issued by officials. In November, ecologists wrote a corresponding inquiry to the Russian Prosecutor General, which was answered only recently: prosecutors would not press charges against nuclear officials who either remained mum or issued contradictory reports.
In their inquiry, the group of ecologists showed that on November 4th at 1:20 p.m. a press release was issued by the Balakovo plant's public information centre which stated that an on-going repair of a coolant pipe in reactor 2's steam generator was underway, beginning from 1:24 a.m. this day.
By the next day, Nikolai Shingaryov, press secretary for the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, or RosAtom, announced in an interview with the Russian news wire RIA Novosti that Balakovo's reactor no. 2 had experienced an out of the ordinary situaton – an emergency shut down of the reactor resulting from self – activation of the reactor's emergency system resulting from the damaged coolant pipe.
”In this manner, during the 48 hour period beginning with the shut down of the reactor official structures responsible for alerting the public presented at least two versions of what happened at the plant,” the ecologists wrote in their inquiry.
Aside from that, wrote the ecologists, one important foundation for their inquiry was that “the first appearance of any officials on television in Balakovo – the most populated area in the region of the plant – did not occur until 8 p.m. the evening of November 4, a full 17 hours following the incident.” The officials informed the public that there had been no fallout.
In their letter, the ecologists requested that prosecutors investigate the delay and contradictons in information issues regarding the situation – which itself is proscribed by Article 8.5 of Russia's administrative code and article 140 of its criminal code.
In return, the ecologists received, through Greenpeace Russia who had initiated the initial inquiry, an answer from one A. S. Kovalyov, inspector for especially important cases in the Saratov Regional prosecutors' office, who wrote that the contradiction answers given by officials the day the accident occurred that “both pieces of information compliment one another.”
“During the course of investigation No. 1325, initiated on suspicion of falsified information concerning an accident at the Balakovo NPP,” Kovalyov wrote, “it was established that official information on the incident, sent by the Balakovo NPP following the discovery of the malfunction appeared in six federal, 17 regional and 10 city media outlets.”
Without establishing when this information was sent, the bureaucracy of the prosecutors’ office announced that “tardy information” was not issued and “a foundation for applying prosecutorial measures does not apply.”
But Vladimir Chuprov, head of anti-nuclear campaigning for Greenpeace Russia is not satisfied to let it rest at that. “We will try to compose one more letter to the Prosecutor General’s office about how their Saratov colleagues are, in fact, wrong regarding the question of timely and correct release of information, specifically concerning concrete information about the accident,” he said in an interview with Bellona Web.
In December, at a meeting at Kalinin NPP, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin opposed nuclear officials who linked Balakovo panic to mass-media. “People don’t give credence to the state bodies… to gain such credence, [the state] needs to show openness in such a sensitive sphere as nuclear energy,” he said as quoted by the NTV channel.
The silence of Russian officialdom, or alternatively, lies from their lips, are a time-worn habit. Most recently, one need only recall the catechism of lies surrounding the tragic sinking of the Kursk submarine propagated by chief naval press secretary Igor Dygalo, particularly that communication had been established with the doomed sailors, or, more recently the fabrications swirling around the Beslan school hostage taking tragedy, during which officials intentionally under-reported the number of hostages. In times of crisis, it could be said that the least reliable source of information is that which is officially reported by the Russian government.
In their own complaint to the prosecutors office, the ecologists were forced to address an accusation levied against them a by the atomic industry: On November 9, after the panic had finally simmered down, the Balakovo NPP posted an accusation against “greens” in particular, and Greenpeace specifically, for blowing the event out of proportion.
“Some representatives of the ‘greens’ made their investment in inflating hysteria, advising the public to take iodine pills and drops. Therefore, on the Greenpeace Internet site currently notes that ‘because of their unexpected and effect on hundreds of thousands of people, the events bear the tracings of a meticulously planned provocation.’ This creates the impression that after the prosecutors' office filed charges of spreading false information about the accident at the Balakovo NPP, those who were connected with it, are taking steps to dodge responsibility.”
Greenpeace representatives and those of 22 other ecological organisations also turned to the Saratov Prosecutors’ offices with a demand that they get an evaluation of the complaint filed by Balakovo’s press service. They demanded further that suit be filed on their behalf for libel because the text of the Balakovo release basically implied that “greens,” specifically Greenpeace, were accessories to spreading obviously false information about an act of terrorism, suggesting that they were accessories to a crime and therefore were “taking steps to dodge responsibility.”
The prosecutors found no specific reference to any ‘green’ organisations in the Balakovo posting, thus flattening Greenpeace’s foundation for a libel suit, as seen in the following answers received from the prosecutors office.
“Explanation: within the text posted by the Balakovo NPP, it is written that some representatives of the ‘greens’ made their investment in inflating hysteria, advising the public to take iodine pills and drops. At the same time, no references to any concrete organisations, representatives of which gave the aforementioned information are given.”
The Mednovosti news site
After the panic had begun, the Russian media supplied completely erroneous information about how to take iodine against impending radiation threats. Many news outlets asserted that iodine could be taken only in tablets. Other outlets questioned outright the absolute need to take iodine preparations in the event of a nuclear accident.
Even the specialised medical news site, Mednovosti.ru, published an article asserting that “taking iodine in the event of a radioactive fallout is unjustified from a medical point of view.” Mednovosti’s article, moreover, made the incredible assertion that the notion of taking iodine arose mistakenly from directions given to chemotherapy patients who are required to take iodine prior to treatment involving radioactive iodine.
It is common knowledge within the nuclear community that reactor accidents and emergency shut down cause radioactive fallout of radioactive iodine significant enough to effect the surrounding environment. It is also common knowledge that taking iodine – in tablets or a solution– is a time-worn and proven practice in the event of an accident at a nuclear site. The only dispute that remains concerns dosages. According to medical authorities in New South Wales, Australia, the proper dosages in the direct wake of a nuclear accident are: 16 drops for a water based solution of iodine, 100 milligrams in tablet form or 116 milligrams of iodine drops taken directly.
The Russian norm as defined by “authority of organisations of sanitary-hygienic and curative and prophylactic measures in a large-scale radioactive disaster” documentation, the appropriate dosage for adults is 125 milligrams in tablet form or a twice daily dosage of 20 drops of 5 percent iodine solution taken in a half cup of water or milk.
The highest dose of iodine is 20 drops increment not to exceed 60 drops within a 24 hour period.
Is the Internet to be blamed for everything?
At the end of December, charges for spreading false information fell on the man identified by authorities only as an employee of a Samara concern called the Wenses Laboratory for Information Systems. According to police documents, it was him who, on the day following the incident – November 5th - opened a free personal Internet page on the free of charge Russian server narod.ru, a part of the Yandex network. His page indicated that “an accident had occurred” and spoke of “four dead and 18 wounded.”
“Inquiries about Balakovo appeared on the [Russian] search engine Yandex in a noticeable quantity on November 5th, something on the order of 10,000,” wrote a spokesman for Yandex in an statement to Bellona Web. “On November 4th, there were units of inquiries beginning around 11 p.m. Moscow time.”
Because the site aesbalakovo.narod.ru was created on the Yandex hosting network, explained the spokesman, the firm could determine that the page was visited by 2000 people, and that the first links to it began to appear on forums – as well as on the sites of large publications, like the Kommersant daily Russian newspaper - on November 6th. On November 8th, the site was shut down. “It physically exists,” said the Yandex spokesman, “but the material has been removed.”
“Regarding the exposure of the author and proof of authorship – this is not our business and it's not a question that should be addressed to us,” said the Yandex spokesman.
“We don’t think that web sites should be regarded as equal to the media – aside from those sites that call themselves mass media and have an existing publication licence –like lenta.ru, gazeta.ru, [two influential daily Russian news outlets] and so on. The information appearing on the sites of narod.ru users is generally available and because of this, as a rule, expresses the [private] opinion of citizens,” he said.
It should be noted that the site balakovoaes.narod.ru, created by pesons unknown, and which contains similar information to that of the now defunct aesbalakovo.narod.ru continued to exist on the narod.ru pages. Instead of an answer to an inquiry from Bellona Web, — because this site was not the object of attention that its half brother aesbalakovo was, Yandex simply closed the site.
The Wenses' former specialist, is meanwhile facing a three-year-prison sentence. A source at Wenses, said that this specialist, named Sergei, was fired in mid-December. Wenses has refused to comment in more details about the case.
Secret civil defence workers
“I think they just found a patsy. During the panic, Civil Defence (CD) and Emergency Services (EC) workers were allegedly alerted, and they called schools and kindergartens and informed them to take iodine,’” said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Russian anti-nuclear group Ecodefence. “ And why wouldn’t they [look for someone to blame]? And the management of these organizations call didn’t call the CD or the EC back, they didn’t verify the information – is there even a protocol for dealing with such incidents?”
Already by November 5th, Alexander Rabadanov, the CD and ES minister for the Saratov region informed journalists that the panic was brought about by “someone posing as a civil defence or emergency services worker, who called various institutions and schools in the region with the recommendation that people... drink iodine.”
Anatoly Gorshkov, an investigator with the especially important matters unit of the Saratov Prosecutors’ office, told Bellona Web, Wenses' specialist was their one suspect.
“He created the site with bad intentions. As concerns those emergency workers who contacted various organizations and advised personnel to take iodine, they, most likely, were innocently led astray, and tried to anticipate the situation and secure the surroundings,” he said. “I am convinced that the consequences of this site will be serious. It put an innumerable number of people in danger.”
When asked how this site could be blamed for the panic when it appeared only later in the day on November 5th, Gorshkov said; “Personally speaking, the circumstances and consequences are not important because, whether the panic emerged or not, it is not the subject of the accusations in spreading information.”
Anton Nossik, a well-known Russian Internet analyst and activist said: “The blame lay not with those anonymous page, but with those members of the media who re-broadcast the information without having any foundation to believe it.”
Nosik said that Article 57 of the Law on Media covers various circumstances when the media are free from liability for misreporting news. One is if the source of information was an official, or an information agency so proven to be so by the media. The notion of anonymous web pages is not covered by the law. Likewise, the law does not say that the media are exonerated from liability if they get information from an unknown source.
According to Gorshkov, the prosecutors’ office does not intend to file charges against any media outlets that used Sergei’s web site a source because those media “were not the source of the information.”
“The site was opened on November 5th, but the wide-spread panic had already begun on November 4th,” said Greenpeace's Chuprov.
“The state is simply looking for a patsy, regardless of whether the reason [for the information failure] was systematic. Why do we need the government that you can frighten with one amateur web site?” he added.
Ecologists say that the reason for the panic was precisely the fault of the information vacuum surrounding the events at the Balakovo NPP on in the pre-dawn hours of November 4th. Nossik thinks the same. That Internet forum users began to pass this information to one another, and then that the media published the address of this site is a rare stroke of luck, said Nossik.
“It is doubtful that any anonymous page on any anonymous hosting site would cause a fall in the stock market or a flight of the population from radiation,” said Nossik in an interview with Bellona Web.
Amidst this, Nossik wrote in one of his recent columns on the Internet-based Gzt.ru, that “the declarations of ministers, mayors, governors, deputies, senators and special services generals, made during 2004 about the growing, pointed necessity of boosting government control over the Internet, its servers and users and the materials put on it sound threatening.”
The status of the Internet in Russia
Currently developing practice shows that the internets is, in point of fact, a self regulating field beyond the reach of government. Strictly speaking, one can consider “official” only those sites that announce themselves as media sites – and none of them supply any information that might run contrary to their authenticity - and official sites of the authorities and organisations. The remaining information is just snippet of personal conversation.
One web master from a division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who asked not to be named in this article, said that “all the words about information on, say, livejournal or on narod.ru is public just because it is accessible to an unlimited circle of people is nuts. That’s what people who have poor perception of the Internet think.”
“By the same logic, one could say that an ‘unlimited circle of people’ can come into my apartment. Or that a conversation between two acquaintances via walkie-talkies is public just because someone else may be on the same frequency.”
The this sources opinion, “bringing criminal charges for amateur use is the same as Stalin-era surveillance of personal conversations.”
The Skovorodnikov affair
Recently, Andrei Skovorodnikov of the Central Siberia city of Krasnoyarsk was sentenced to six months of community service. Because of his membership in the fringe National-Bolshevik party he was accused of creating a web site that contained an obscene play on words involving President Vladimir Putin’s last name.
In an interview with Bellona Web, Skovorodnikov said that the site he was accused of creating was put up on the free www.newmail.ru where members can situate personal web pages. As it turns out, a web search including the obscene phase used by Skovorodnikov on his page returns 401 other web pages containing the same phrase.
Control over the Internet?
“It is stupid and unjustified to accuse the Internet of creating panic. The Internetisation of the Russian population is low, people here don’t have wide-scale access to the Internet,” said Slivyak.
“Russia has very few Internet users. In this sense, Russia cannot even compete with, say, Egypt, which I visited recently. There, they have a lot of cyber-cafes, practically one in every building on the ground floor... even very poor people can be seen in them, smoking hookahs, surfing online and looking at the news.”
Shohdi Naguib, a famous figure on the Russian Internet, who holds dual citizenship with Russia and Egypt, said in an interview with Bellona Web that Skovorodnikov’s case is very similar to his own: In 2002, Naguib was found guilty by an Egyptian court of posting a satirical poem written by his father on a server that was pysically located in the United States.
“The only difference [my case and that of Skovorodnikov] is that I was not even on trial for the publication of my own opinion, but for a poem written by my father 30 years previous. I am in absolute solidarity with this young man,” he said.
In Naguib’s opinion, in conditions of virtual absence of any political freedoms in Russia and of the arbitrary rule of bureaucrats, electronic sources of information become the only uncontrollable space, which is what makes it so difficult for the ruling classes to demolish Perestroika’s last big achievement - Glasnost.
“This is why any incursion by the authorities into cyberspace must be met with aggressive opposition, even in a case where the authorities decide suddenly to start a crack-down on spam,” he said.
1. Alexander Yakovenko, the Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers Russian Media Questions Regarding Upcoming Meeting in Ankara Between Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: What position do Russia and the United States hold in the struggle against new challenges and threats?
Answer: The ministers will discuss in detail the problems in antiterrorist cooperation in the context of the building-up of joint actions in the struggle against new challenges and threats. We appreciate the strong line of the US leadership, ready to stand with us in our common war on terror, as US President Bush put it, shoulder to shoulder. Another important block of problems which is being prepared towards Bratislava is the state of, and prospects for our cooperation in the field of disarmament and the nonproliferation of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction..
Thank you, Sam, for the role that the Nuclear Threat Initiative is playing in making the destruction of the 2 million chemical weapons stored at Shchuchye a reality. It is a privilege to be here today to celebrate this important achievement. I congratulate Ambassadors Kergin and Ushakov on the important progress their governments are making in eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
I have visited the chemical arsenal at Shchuchye on two occasions and continue to be awed at the potential death and destruction stored there. Artillery and mortar rounds are stacked from floor to ceiling in wooden barns like bottles in a vast wine cellar. The munitions stored at Shchuchye are the most dangerous in the Russian chemical stockpile, because their portability makes them a great proliferation risk. To demonstrate this point, I asked a Russian Major to take my picture while I placed an 81mm chemical shell in an ordinary briefcase. My hosts estimated that this one shell could kill everyone in a football stadium.
The United States and Russia have been joined by Canada, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in the construction of the chemical weapons destruction facility. NTI joins former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s organization, Green Cross International, on the list of non-governmental institutions making contributions at Shchuchye. The NTI-Canada agreement to be signed today will help ensure that the chemical weapons are safely and securely transported from storage to elimination.
Contractors from the United States, Russia, and other nations are working through the Siberian winter to erect this facility. It is scheduled to be completed in 2007, with destruction operations beginning the following year. The Nunn-Lugar program has assisted Russia in upgrading the security surrounding the Shchuchye stockpile, and the situation has improved greatly. But the threat will remain until the weapons are destroyed.
Progress has not been easy, nor is success assured. President Bush has called the acceleration of weapons destruction at Shchuchye a high priority, and has personally intervened to ensure that the project stays on track. Yet despite the President’s strong personal support, the project remains vulnerable to delays and obstruction.
Congressionally imposed conditions remain a threat to the future of Schuchye. In addition to the six conditions on the entire Nunn-Lugar Program, Congress imposed an additional six conditions on chemical weapons destruction. These conditions have led to numerous delays, including a five month lag in 2002.
The conditions require hundreds, if not thousands, of man hours each year to produce documentation related to the certification and waiver process for Shchuchye. Given the strong consensus that this program must go forward, this time might be better spent interdicting WMD shipments or identifying the next AQ Khan.
Last November, I introduced legislation designed to eliminate these conditions. I will re-introduce this bill tomorrow. I am pleased that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed the Administration’s support for my bill during her confirmation hearing.
In closing, I applaud the work of NTI. I can think of no better use for these funds than direct contributions to dismantlement projects. NTI’s investment in the chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchye will make the world a safer place.
3. Transcript of Statement and Questions and Answers by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Following His Talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Foreign Minister Lavrov: Talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have just ended. They were held in a sincere and friendly atmosphere. We discussed in detail all the key issues on the bilateral and international agenda to be discussed during the Summit Meeting of Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush on February 24. It was a substantial discussion looking into the future. We confirmed our mutual intention to ensure succession, to try to enhance the performance of accords reached by the Presidents and, naturally, we want to pick up pace, rather than see it go down. I am convinced that after the talks, the Russian and American sides are equally resolved to rely on the solid foundation already laid by joint efforts in the previous period and to proceed with persistent work aimed at the strengthening of the partnership base for Russian-American relations. The Bratislava Summit should certainly play a key role and define the tone of Russian-US interaction for the coming four years. We hope that it will give a new impetus to resolving practical tasks and will allow building up our partnership along all directions.
Russia and the US have paid special attention to combating threats and responding to challenges related to international security and stability. These include international terrorism and non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons first and foremost. Naturally, resolving critical situations is also in line with our countries' national interests.
Another important set of problems to be discussed in Bratislava, which we have considered today, is cooperation in the field of disarmament, strategic stability in general, including non-proliferation of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons. We have discussed in detail the ideas each party has and we would like to thoroughly elaborate them by the Summit Meeting in terms of making our joint efforts in those spheres more effective. We have paid special attention to the need to prepare concrete steps to make sure that any types of mass destruction weapons, their components and means of delivery would not get into the hands of terrorists.
4. Rice Remarks to the Press En Route to London (excerpted)
Department of State
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SECRETARY RICE: The Iranians, also of course, are engaged in activities that are attempting to use the NPT cover of the seeking civilian nuclear power, to disguise activities that we believe could lead to a nuclear weapon, and we are attacking that problem on a number of fronts. First of all, in an increasing consensus that any cooperation with the Iranians of the kind that, for instance, the Russians are engaging in at Bushehr, must have certain safeguards and so we've been pleased that the Russians talk now about a take-back of the fuel and the need for the Iranians to sign the additional protocol. It isn't proliferation risk-free, but it helps.
5. Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice With Claus Kleber on "heute-journal" ZDF German Television (excerpted)
Department of State
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QUESTION: Addressing Iran, you said it is very important that Iran understands that Europe and America is united in the effort to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. In the same breath, you day that America won't be a part of the EU3 diplomatic initiative towards Iran. Why is that? Do you think it is hopeless?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are united in the purpose here, there is not doubt about that. No one wants to see Iran use the cover of civilian nuclear programs to a build nuclear weapon. And we are sending a very united message.
And we are in close cooperation and close discussion with the EU3 as they move forward. Frankly, the EU3 has given the Iranians an opportunity to show that they are prepared to live up to their international obligations. The Iranians ought to take that opportunity. The United States is also working through the IAEA or the governors. We are working bilaterally with states like Russia to try and diminish the proliferation risk of civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran.
So we have a big agenda. We will all play our part. But the key is that the Iranians must know that there cannot be a place for them in the international community of states if they continue to flaunt and continue to defy their international obligations.
QUESTION: The President has said he won't take any options, including the military option, from the table. Is there realistically a military option to solve this problem in Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: The President of the United States can never take any option off the table. The fact is that we believe that this is a problem that can be resolved diplomatically, that we have by no means exhausted all of the diplomatic opportunities before us. We have the opportunity that is provided by what the EU3 is doing. We have the opportunity provided by states like Russia deciding that Iran must sign the additional protocol and return fuel before civilian nuclear cooperation can go forward. We have, if necessary, we can always refer Iran to the Security Council. So there are many steps ahead of us and we need to realize that the agenda is a diplomatic one concerning Iran, at this point.
6. Department of Energy All-Hands Meeting (excerpted)
Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
[ . . . ]
In addition, I believe that we can build upon the department’s impressive achievements in nuclear nonproliferation. Few things are more critical in today’s world than keeping weapons-usable nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands.
Toward this goal, we will continue our efforts to equip ports and border crossings with radiation-detection devices… we will keep working with Russia and other nations to secure nuclear material around the world… and we will press ahead with programs such as finding new jobs for former Soviet weapons scientists… and programs to convert weapons-usable material into commercial reactor fuel.
7. U.S. Compliance With Article VI of the NPT (excerpted)
Stephen G. Rademaker
Department of State
(for personal use only)
[ . . . ]
The Record of the United States
With regard to the first objective of Article VI, that we “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date,” I think it is manifest that this objective has been fully realized. The nuclear arms race ended well over a decade ago, and since then both we and the Russians have been working diligently to reduce our respective nuclear arsenals. Some might argue that it was the end of the Cold War rather than negotiations in accordance with Article VI that brought about the cessation of the nuclear arms race, but such an argument would overlook the contribution that arms control made to ending the Cold War. Taken collectively, the INF [Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, the START [Strategic Arms Reduction Talks] Treaty, and the CFE [Conventional Forces in Europe] Treaty bracketed the end of the Cold War and helped lock in place the non-confrontational relationship that exists between the United States and Russia today.
With regard to the second objective of Article VI, that we “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to . . . nuclear disarmament,” I again think it is indisputable that we have more than fulfilled our obligations. Ever since the NPT entered into force in 1970, we have been negotiating and, in many cases, reaching agreement with first the Soviet Union, and today Russia, on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. Beginning with the SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) Treaty in 1972, and continuing through the INF and START I Treaties, we successfully concluded and brought into force treaties that were highly effective in contributing to nuclear disarmament. To be sure, we had some false starts along the way, such as the SALT II and START II Treaties, which were signed but not brought into effect. But even these treaties, unratified as they were, helped foster a climate of restraint that contributed to nuclear disarmament.
The result has been an impressive record of achievement. Over the past 15 years, we have:
-- Reduced from over 10,000 deployed strategic warheads to less than 6,000 by December 5, 2001, as required by the START I Treaty;
-- Eliminated nearly 90% of U.S. nonategic nuclear weapons, and reduced the number of types of nuclear systems in Europe from five in 1991 to just one today;
-- Dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear weapons since 1988
-- Not produced highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons since 1964, and halted the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons in 1988;
-- Not conducted a nuclear explosive test since 1992;and
-- Removed more than 200 tons of fissile material from the military stockpile: enough material for at least 8,000 nuclear weapons.
These efforts have been continued, and indeed accelerated, under the Bush administration. The Moscow Treaty, signed by Presidents Bush and Putin on May 24, 2002, and entered into force on June 1, 2003, represents a new milestone in nuclear arms reduction. This Treaty requires both countries to reduce their strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700 to 2,200 by December 31, 2012. This nearly two-thirds reduction from 2002 levels represents the largest reduction in nuclear warheads ever required under a strategic arms control treaty. Upon completion of the Moscow Treaty reductions in 2012, the United States will have reduced about 80% of the strategic nuclear warheads that we had deployed in 1991. And we are not waiting until 2012 to implement these reductions. In accordance with the Moscow Treaty, we already have deactivated 37 of 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles], removing a total of 370 nuclear warheads from deployed status. Deactivation of the remaining 13 Peacekeeper ICBMs is scheduled for completion by October of this year. In addition, we have removed four ballistic missile submarines from strategic service, removing hundreds more nuclear warheads from deployed status.
In view of the Moscow Treaty, it is manifest that, under President Bush’s leadership, the United States has continued to meet its obligation under Article VI to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to . . . nuclear disarmament.”
The Moscow Treaty is not the only step taken by the Bush administration with positive ramifications for Article VI. The 2002 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review also represents good news for nuclear disarmament -- despite misleading and inaccurate portrayals at the time of its release, some of which persist to this day. Many critics falsely charge that the United States is developing new low-yield weapons and pursuing policies that will lead to a reduction in the so-called threshold of nuclear weapons use. In fact, the contrary has happened: the United States is now pursuing policies that will reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons.
The premise of this new approach to deterrence is that the time has come to shift the emphasis away from nuclear forces to other means, including conventional forces, missile defenses, and a more responsive defense infrastructure. This represents a very significant change in the U.S. deterrence concept, and one that makes sense in the new security environment. The United States has many programs designed to implement this policy shift. For example, we are developing and deploying a missile defense system, as well as developing advanced conventional weapons programs.
Consistent with our alliance commitments and defense requirements, it is our policy to continue to plan for contingencies and conceptually explore technical options that could maintain the credibility of our nuclear deterrent capability. Looking at options says nothing about what we will do. The fact is that the United States is not developing any new nuclear weapons, including low-yield nuclear weapons. The study of new weapons designs under funding provided by Congress in past years for advanced concepts has been entirely conceptual. Most of this funding was directed toward examining the feasibility of a more effective nuclear earth penetrator than the B61 mod 11 bomb introduced into the nuclear stockpile during the latter part of the Clinton administration. And, as you know, Congress did not continue funding for this work in FY [fiscal year] 2005. Furthermore, the United States has no plans to conduct a nuclear explosive test, and continues to observe its nuclear testing moratorium. We encourage other states not to test as well. These U.S. nuclear weapons policies may not be altered without a presidential decision and congressional authorization.
Finally, it is important to note that the United States has had low-yield nuclear weapons in its stockpile for decades, and does today. A new low-yield weapon, therefore, would not lower the nuclear threshold in any way. The political leadership of the United States, now and in the future, will have a keen appreciation for the consequences of a decision to use nuclear weapons. The nuclear threshold is and will remain very high.
The strong record of the United States on Article VI is reinforced by our cooperative threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union. The United States continues to work hard to foster such cooperation through programs run by the Departments of State, Defense and Energy -- the total U.S. commitment in dollars over the past 15 years exceeds $9 billion, and now averages over $1 billion a year. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to dismantle missiles and WMD [weapons of mass destruction] in the United States and Russia, while spending zero -- let me repeat -- zero dollars on the development or production of new nuclear weapons.
The results are amazing. Under these programs, over 1,000 ballistic missiles from the former Soviet Union have been eliminated; more than 600 air-to-surface nuclear missiles have been destroyed, along with 126 bombers and 27 ballistic missile submarines. More than 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads have been removed from deployment. In FY 2003 alone, the program destroyed nearly 130 submarine and land-based ballistic missiles -- enough delivery capability to launch thousands of Hiroshima-size bombs.
The totality of this work represents an enormous contribution to the goal [of] making nuclear reductions irreversible, and toward the Article VI goal of nuclear disarmament. Without this U.S. investment, there would have been significant delays in the elimination of strategic forces in the states of the former Soviet Union along with the attendant risk of theft, diversion, or accidental or unauthorized use of these forces.
The United States and Russia have also cooperated in a wide range of programs related to the security and disposition of fissile material useable in nuclear weapons. In 1997, we concluded a bilateral agreement to ensure the permanent shutdown of both sides' 27 plutonium production reactors.
Also, over 200 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Russia's military stockpile have been converted to low enriched uranium fuel for civil reactors, with more to be eliminated in this fashion. The United States has identified 174 tons of excess HEU for this purpose -- about 40 tons have been processed to date. Together, the United States and Russia have already converted into peaceful uses enough HEU to make 10,000 nuclear weapons -- another dramatic contribution to irreversibility.
Both countries remain committed to implementation of the 2000 agreement under which each will dispose of 34 tons of excess plutonium from their military stockpiles. The Department of Energy hopes to spend over $600 million dollars in FY 2005 to fund this multi-year effort, including assistance to Russia's program. Construction of the U.S. facility to fabricate the U.S. plutonium into reactor fuel is projected to start in FY 2005.
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