On Sept. 20, a Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) sergeant at the Mayak
facility, where over 30 tons of separated weapons-usable civilian plutonium is
stored, shot two of his MVD comrades and wounded another before escaping with
an assault rifle and ammunition. The incident reportedly led President Yeltsin
to order a review of nuclear security at the site.
In September, a U.S. team visiting the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow was
shown a building containing 100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium --
potentially enough for several nuclear bombs -- that was totally unguarded,
because the Institute could not afford the $200-a-month salary for a guard.
At some nuclear facilities, MVD guards have left their posts to forage for
food. Others have been reluctant to patrol facility perimeters because they
did not have winter uniforms to keep them warm on patrol. At some facilities,
recently installed security equipment is not being used because there is no
money to maintain it; at others, guards who had not been paid in months were
expected to man unheated posts in sub-freezing conditions. At some facilities, entire security systems -- alarms,
surveillance cameras, portal monitors, etc. -- have been shut down because the
facilities' electricity was cut off for non-payment of bills. At other facilities, guards have intentionally turned off
alarm systems, or even cut their cables, because they were annoyed by frequent
In early September, Minister of Atomic Energy Evgeniy Adamov told nuclear
workers protesting months of unpaid wages that the government owed the ministry
over $170 million and had not provided a single ruble in two months. Some 47,000 unpaid nuclear workers joined in
protests at various locations around the country, over what the nuclear
workers' trade union said was over $400 million in back wages to workers in the
In August, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev issued an order to all military
officers to "look for additional sources [of sustenance for the winter] and
assume personal control." The Defense Ministry announced that trips would be
organized for all soldiers and officers to take to the fields to harvest
mushrooms, berries, and other sources of food for the winter. In the Far East
region of Khabarovsk, the territorial administration has reportedly stopped
providing bread to Far East military units, due to non-payment of debts.
On October 9, General Igor Volynkin, commander of the 12th Main Directorate
of the Ministry of Defense, in charge of security for nuclear weapons, told a
press conference that Russia was fully capable of protecting its nuclear
weapons, but acknowledged that the directorate's troops had not been given any
higher priority in receiving pay than other troops, that they had received the
paychecks due them only through July, and that the directorate was helping
officers to get vegetables and potatoes for the winter in lieu of cash.
On Sept. 5, five soldiers from the 12th Main Directorate at Novaya Zemlya --
Russia's only nuclear weapons test site -- killed a guard at the facility, took
another guard hostage and tried to hijack an aircraft. After seizing more
hostages, they were disarmed by other Ministry of Defense forces and Federal
Security Service commandos.
On Sept. 11, a 19-year-old sailor went on a rampage in Murmansk, killing
seven people with a chisel and an AK-47 assault rifle aboard an Akula-class
nuclear-attack submarine. He then barricaded himself for 20 hours in the
torpedo bay and threatened to blow up the submarine, with its nuclear reactor.
Finally, he reportedly committed suicide. Russian officials insisted there were
no nuclear weapons on board at the time.
On October 12, Sergei Ushakov, a spokesman for Russia's Chief Military
Prosecutor's Office, reported that some 20 servicemen serving in the Strategic
Rocket Forces were discharged during 1997-1998 after being diagnosed with
psychiatric disorders, and that some of these were responsible for guarding
nuclear arsenals. The office issued a report indicating the Strategic Rocket
Forces, of all the services in Russia's military, had the most rapid increase
in its crime rate, 25 percent higher in 1997 than in 1996.
In late October, a Strategic Rocket Forces officer at a base for the Topol-M
ICBMs -- the most modern weapons in the Russian strategic force -- was quoted
on Russian television as saying that he had received his pay only through July,
despite promises that back wages would be paid in October.
In early October, Russian customs reportedly intercepted 5 "Hip C" assault
transport helicopters with weapons pods, apparently stolen by military
officers, bound for North Korea. The helicopters, valued at $300,000 each,
were reportedly being sold for $20,000 apiece.
On September 3, Russian radio reported that the mayor of Krasnoyarsk-45, one
of Russia's closed "nuclear cities," where enough HEU for hundreds or thousands
of bombs is located, had written to Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed and
Atomic Energy Minister Evgeniy Adamov warning that unless urgent action was
taken, a social explosion in the city was unavoidable, as a cutoff in payments
from the Atomic Ministry's bank meant that public sector workers had not been
paid at all in August, and even basic medical supplies could not be
In September, at the closed Siberian nuclear city of Krasnoyarsk-26, home to
enough plutonium for hundreds or thousands of nuclear bombs, the heat was shut
off for weeks, because lack of money delayed shipments of fuel to the reactor
that heats the city, and workers staged a protest over unpaid wages at the
plutonium processing facility. Shortly before this incident, the facility
director wrote to Ministry of Atomic Energy headquarters in Moscow, warning
that "wage payments are three months behind schedule...The social tension in
the shops and factories has reached the critical level, and its consequences
On November 19, 3,000 workers staged a one-day strike over unpaid wages at
Chelyabinsk-70, one of Russia's premier nuclear weapons design laboratories,
complaining of "constant undernourishment, insufficient medical service,
inability to buy clothing and footwear for children or to pay for their
"Yeltsin Orders Nuclear Security Probe," Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, October 21, 1998.
 "Where Nuclear Peril Lies Waiting,"
Elisabeth Rindskopf, Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1998.
"Prospects for U.S.-Russian Cooperation for Nonproliferation in the Post-Cold War Era," William C. Potter, presentation to the Defense and Security Committee of the North Atlantic Assembly, 44th Annual Session, Edinburgh, November 10-13, 1998.
 "Preventing the Proliferation of Russian
Nuclear Materials: Limits of the Current Approach," Todd E. Perry, paper
prepared for the Annual Meeting of the International Security Studies Section
(ISSS), International Studies Association (ISA), Monterey, California, November
"Nuclear Weapons Threat Lurks in Russia: Poorly Paid Guards Are a Security Concern," Barbara Slavin, USA Today, November 24, 1998; "Russian Nuclear Security Called Lax: Easy Access to Fuel, Failure to Pay Wages Alarm U.S. Experts," David Hoffman, The Washington Post, November 27, 1998.
 "Russia's Nuclear Force Sinks With the
Ruble: Economic Crisis Erodes Strategic Arsenal," David Hoffman, The
Washington Post, September 18, 1998.
 "Nuclear Center Staffers to Join Nation-Wide
Protest," Itar-Tass, September 11, 1998, and "Fund Arrears Imperil
Russia's Nuclear Sites," Kevin O'Flynn, The Moscow Times, September 8,
"Russian Army Sells Arms to Pay for Food: Global Intelligence Update Red Alert," GlobalBeat October 9, 1998.
"Russia is capable to ensure its security, general," Mikhail Shevtsov, ITAR-TASS, October 9, 1998. According to Russian officials a statement in October that troops have only received pay for July means that they are receiving paychecks with some regularity, but that the paychecks they received recently only bring them up to what they were supposed to have been paid by July; it does not necessarily mean that they have received no pay at all since July.
 "Yeltsin Orders Nuclear Security Probe,"
op. cit.; see also "Underlying Reason: Crime in the Russian Army Has Rolled up
to Nuclear Munitions Units, But the Ministry of Defense Believes Russia Is
Capable of Controlling Weapons of Mass Destruction Without Foreign
Intervention," Vladimir Georgiev, Moscow Nezavisimoye Voyennoye
Obozreniye, September 11-17, 1998 No.34, p. 1, translated in Foreign
Broadcast Information Service, Central Eurasia, September 23, 1998.
 Ibid. See also "Nuclear Fears Resurface
After Seizure of Russia Sub," Richard Paddock, Los Angeles Times,
October 5, 1998.
"Problems in Military Blamed on Incompetent Recruiting," RFE/RL, October 16, 1998.
 "Stretched Russian Army Faces Stark
Choice," Reuters, October 28, 1998.
Interfax, October 7, 1998, cited in "Russian Army Sells Arms to Pay for Food: Global Intelligence Update Red Alert," GlobalBeat October 9, 1998.
 Radio Russia, Moscow, in Russian, 0400 Greenwich Mean Time, September 3, 1998, translated in "Bank Default Threatens Social Explosion in Krasnoyarsk," British Broadcasting Corporation, September 4, 1998.
"Special Report: The Hidden City: Hard Times at Russia's Once-Pampered Nuclear Centers," Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times, November 18, 1998.