Leonid Smirnov's dream is to save enough money to open an animal shelter. He lives with his wife Natasha and five pampered cats in a small apartment in Moscow. But dreams are difficult to achieve, especially in Russia, where high inflation and economic uncertainty make even survival difficult.
In the early 1990s with inflation spiraling out of control, Smirnov became depressed about his financial situation. Coming across a newspaper article about someone who stole uranium, he began to plot how he could benefit from his daily access to such material.
As foreman of the Podolsk Chemical Research Institute, Smirnov was in charge of inventorying and weighing uranium waste. He knew that if he patiently pilfered very small amounts his thefts would never be noticed. He was right. In four months he collected 1,538 grams of enriched uranium.
"I had no idea where to sell it," Smirnov says. "I had no customers. I had no idea on the price. I just thought of appearing at foreign firms in Moscow to discuss the deal."
Fortunately, Smirnov was caught before the uranium could reach the black market - where terrorists are actively looking for such weapons grade material. Frighteningly, until his arrest, no one at the plant ever noticed that anything was missing.
Smirnov served a mere two years for his crime. He now dreams of opening an animal shelter and shudders when he thinks of what could have happened to the material that he stole.