DID PLUTONIUM COME FROM RUSSIA?
Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 30
Two German publications have alleged that highly radioactive plutonium seized by German police at the Munich airport in August 1994 did indeed originate in Russia. The German weekly Focus and the daily Bild reported over the weekend that Russian intelligence officials had informed the Justice Ministry in Bonn that the plutonium had come from an aging research reactor in Obninsk, southwest of Moscow. (8) There has been no confirmation of the report from Russian authorities, who had previously denied that the plutonium could have come from Russia. Obninsk lies approximately 60 miles outside Moscow and is reported to be a storage site for almost a ton of highly enriched uranium. It was a closed city during the Soviet era, but is now open to Russians and foreigners. (9)
The seizure of 10.5 ounces of plutonium-239 from passengers on a regular Lufthansa flight from Moscow to Munich was the most widely publicized of four incidents in which nuclear contraband surfaced in Germany in 1994. Accusations that the materials were coming from Russia, together with suggestions that Moscow had lost control of its nuclear stockpile, led to acrimonious exchanges between the two countries. The seizures also became a heated political issue in Germany, where opposition leaders accused Chancellor Helmut Kohl of somehow orchestrating the events in order to improve his chances in upcoming elections. German intelligence denied the charge. The incidents did nevertheless lead to a cooperation agreement between Germany and Russia aimed at preventing any future smuggling of nuclear materials.
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