Moscow officials were kept busy yesterday denying two recent charges that Russia is contributing to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The most recent came yesterday when the Washington Times — quoting an Israeli intelligence report — accused Russia and China of helping Iran to develop a long-range nuclear missile based on a North Korean system. Several Russian firms and individuals were identified as being associated with this effort, including the prestigious Bauman Moscow State Technical University, the state arms export company Rosvooruzhenie, the Samara-based "Trud" State Scientific and Production Enterprise, and Yury Koptev, head of the Russian Space Agency. The report speculated that Koptev and an unidentified senior official at Rosvooruzhenie might be "free-lancing" rather than acting with the knowledge and approval of the government.
Official spokesmen were quick to deny any involvement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev said that Russia is neither supplying Iran with missile technology nor helping it to develop a nuclear weapon. At Rosvooruzhenie, Valery Kartavtsev said that his agency is likewise not involved. U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley admitted that the Washington Times report was troubling and said that the U.S. government "remain[s] disturbed by the discrepancy between [Russian] assurances and reports of Russian firms cooperating with Iran."
Meanwhile, more Russian organizations issued statements yesterday disputing retired Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed’s recent claim that authorities are unable to account for a number of small nuclear weapons. (See Monitor, September 8-9) The press departments of the Federal Security Service, the Atomic Energy Ministry, and the General Staff all said that Russian nuclear weapons are under safe and reliable control and that none are missing. A Moscow newspaper suggested that Lebed is a "mental case" and pointed to what it said is the incorruptibility of the special security units that protect nuclear weapons. (Russian and Western media, September 10)
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