RUSSIAN officials have angrily denied that the weapons-grade
plutonium seized in Germany over the past week originated in
Russia, while environmental activists claimed Wednesday that the
fissionable material could only have come from a Russian nuclear
Federal Counter-Intelligence Agency spokesman Vladimir
Tomarovsky accused the West of launching a campaign to discredit
Moscow on Tuesday, the same day that German police announced they
had confiscated the second cache of smuggled plutonium 239 in a
"Western public opinion is trying to create the belief that
Russia, with all its problems, is not in a position to maintain
reliable controls on materials of this kind," Mr. Tomarovsky said
at a news conference. "So far we can definitely say this is
The latest seizure, the fourth in four months, involved a
34-year-old German charged in Bremen, Germany with illegal
possession of two grams of plutonium 239. He reportedly offered
undercover police 70 grams of the substance before his arrest
Last Wednesday, Bavarian police seized three to 10 ounces of
plutonium 239 in the luggage of three men - none of whom were
Russian - aboard a Lufthansa airliner flying nonstop from Moscow.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says between 17 to 22 pounds
of the substance is needed to make a crude nuclear bomb.
Confiscation confirms fears
The incidents confirm Western fears that nuclear materials could
fall into terrorist hands. They are concerned that developing
countries desiring to manufacture their own nuclear devices could
gain access to the highly enriched plutonium.
The origin of the seized plutonium has not yet been confirmed.
But Western officials widely believe it originated in Russia, and
its discovery underlines the mounting problem of former Soviet
Russian nuclear scientists are thought to be easy bribe targets
because they receive such low salaries. And a severe lack of funds
means security at nuclear facilities is poor.
On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Michael McCurry said
Washington would push for Russia to tighten control over its
nuclear facilities. Bernd Schmidbauer, German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl's aide in charge of intelligence affairs, is expected in
Moscow soon to discuss the issue.
Campaign to discredit
But Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Georgy Kaurov said
no weapons-grade plutonium or uranium had been reported missing
from Russia's nuclear plants. …