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   Monday September 22 3:54 PM EDT 
   
Russia May Have 'Lost' Nuclear Bombs

   By Andrei Khalip
   
   MOSCOW (Reuter) - President Boris Yeltsin's former environmental
   safety adviser said in remarks published on Monday that some of
   Russia's portable nuclear bombs might indeed be missing, as asserted
   by another former Yeltsin aide.
   
   "The statement by Alexander Lebed concerning suitcases with nuclear
   bombs is definitely not groundless," academician Alexei Yablokov wrote
   in a letter to Novaya Gazeta weekly.
   
   The letter was written on September 9, days after Lebed, former
   presidential security adviser, told the CBS News "60 Minutes"
   programme that the Russian military had lost track of some of its
   nuclear weapons.
   
   He mentioned more than 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, any one of
   which could kill up to 100,000 people.
   
   Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev insisted on Monday that Russia's
   nuclear arsenal was under firm control.
   
   "There are no concerns over this issue," Interfax news agency quoted
   him as saying. "The nuclear weapons are under permanent control." The
   minister appeared to be making a general remark and did not mention
   Yablokov or Lebed.
   
   Nuclear experts with international think-tanks have said in the past
   that Russia has strict control over its military nuclear sites and
   that they viewed nuclear bomb and missile theft as extremely unlikely.
   
   But they said there had been cases of theft of nuclear materials from
   power plants and scientific laboratories.
   
   Yablokov said the military might simply have no record of some of the
   portable nuclear bombs, which he said were made in the 1970s for the
   Soviet KGB for "terrorist purposes."
   
   "These nuclear charges were not registered by the Defence Ministry and
   as a result could have been dropped from the list of nuclear devices
   under international disarmament negotiations," Yablokov said.
   
   Yablokov, an outspoken advocate of environmental protection, also did
   not exclude that Russia carried out a nuclear test at its Arctic
   island of Novaya Zemlya last month.
   
   The United States said then it had detected a seismic event "with
   explosive characteristics" near the Novaya Zemlya test site, but
   Russian officials flatly denied any nuclear tests.
   
   They said Russia had voluntarily given up testing in 1992 and was
   sticking to this position.
   
   Yablokov's charges come at an embarrassing time for Russian officials,
   who are hosting U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena and Vice President
   Al Gore for wide-ranging talks due to include nuclear safety issues.
   
   Washington has more than once expressed concern over nuclear safety in
   Russia and what it called a possible transfer of Russian nuclear
   technologies to other countries, primarily Iran, which it views as a
   sponsor of international terrorism.
   
   Moscow says it is adhering strictly to its international nuclear
   non-proliferation obligations.
   
   Yablokov was sacked from Yeltsin's administration earlier this year.
   He had been in charge of environmental issues at top bodies of the
   former Soviet Union and Russia since 1989. He was chairman of
   Greenpeace-Soviet Union before 1990.
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