On December 24 a high-ranking Russian government official confirmed that Russia had conducted five “subcritical” nuclear tests between September 14 and December 13, 1998. In addition, First Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Lev Ryabev said that Russia intends to conduct the same number of such tests this year at the country’s Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site in the Russian Arctic. Ryabev said that weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium were used during the tests, but that there had been “no discharge of nuclear energy.” The tests, he said, had been conducted in order to confirm the safety and reliability of Russia’s existing nuclear arsenal (AP, December 24; Itar-Tass, December 24-25). Reports that Russia might be planning to resume nuclear testing first surfaced in September 1998 when U.S. satellites detected construction work at the Novaya Zemlya site. A Russian Atomic Energy Minister denied the reports at the time, but did concede that Moscow intended to continue its program of subcritical nuclear testing. Such tests–which involve a small amount of fissile material–are allowed under the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) treaty. Subcritical tests have nevertheless been much criticized by arms control advocates. Both Russia and the United States are signatories to the CTB treaty, but each country has continued to conduct subcritical tests (see Monitor, September 29, 1998).
RUSSIAN “RESOLUTION” FOR 1999: FIGHT AGAINST CRIME, CORRUPTION AND POLITICAL EXTREMISM.