SENIOR officials of the former Soviet Army and Russian nuclear
scientists sharply denied charges by Ukrainian President Leonid
Kravchuk last week that they had lost control over their nuclear
"The system for the storage of nuclear warheads is very safe,
and all the weapons are under centralized control ensuring its
complete safety," Lt. General Sergei Zelentsov, head of the main
department of the joint armed forces of the Commonwealth of
Independent States told reporters March 17.
The senior military official refuted various reports from
Western and Russian media that some nuclear warheads had been sold,
for example from the Republic of Kazakhstan to Iran.
"There is not a single case of loss of a nuclear weapon,"
General Zelentsov retorted, nor any attempts to steal weapons. He
insisted tight security controls over the weapons and nuclear
materials remain in place. All tactical nuclear weapons, such as
short-range rockets and artillery, are now concentrated in only
three republics, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, he added. Kazahkstan
claims all tactical nuclear weapons have been removed from its
soil, and denies charges of selling them to Iran.
Under an existing agreement, the tactical weapons in Ukraine are
scheduled to be removed to Russia by July 1 for eventual
dismantling and destruction. But last week Ukrainian leader
Kravchuk suddenly announced the temporary suspension of their
removal, expressing concern that the weapons were being stockpiled
rather than destroyed and that their control could not be ensured.
"In view of political instability and confusion, we cannot
guarantee the weapons taken out will be destroyed or reliably
safeguarded," Kravchuk says.
The announcement caused concern not only in Moscow but also in
Western capitals which have been steadily pressing for Ukraine to
follow through on pledges to become a nonnuclear state. Within
days, the Ukrainian government started backtracking on Kravchuk's
statement, emphasizing instead a proposal for joint control over
the removal and dismantling to be discussed at the commonwealth
leaders' scheduled summit in Kiev on March 20.
"The key word here is temporary," Anton Buteyko, the Ukrainian
president's advisor on foreign affairs, told the Monitor. "We have
not changed our policy, and we hope to reach an agreement on Friday
so we can resume the removal and meet the July 1 deadline."
A draft proposal on joint control, to be aired at the
commonwealth summit, has been prepared by Ukraine's Ministry of
According to a text obtained by the Monitor, joint control will
be established over the order and timetable of removal, decided by
the commonwealth commander-in-chief, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov,
in coordination with the republics. The document also foresees
joint control over the dismantling of tactical arms in Russia based
on separate bilateral agreements between Belarus, Ukraine, and