Chechen militants have tried to steal nuclear weapons twice, says Russian security chief

A A A

Although Colonel-General Igor Valynkin, head of the defence ministry's shadowy 12th Directorate, did not identify the would-be nuclear thieves, official sources have been quoted in the Russian media as saying they were Chechens. In both cases the men were intercepted by "mobile units" tasked with protecting nuclear storage facilities and arrested by the FSB security service.

Col-Gen Valynkin said Chechen separatists posed the greatest threat to Russia's nuclear arsenal. "We get special information about their plans regarding our nuclear facilities from the FSB and we use this information to urgently take the necessary security measures at the facilities concerned," he said.

He said the two attempted break-ins occurred in 2002 and 2003. Defence ministry sources told the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the incidents were in the Saratov region, where there are two nuclear storage facilities. In both cases Chechens were caught assessing security and trying to get access to warehouses containing warheads.

Viktor Ilyukhin, an MP and deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's security committee, warned that Chechens have inside knowledge. "Before the start of what is called the civil war in the north Caucasus many Chechens served in the armed forces, in the interior ministry troops, and many have experience of guarding our crucial facilities," he told Ekho Moskvy Radio. "Their location is not in any way a secret for the Chechens."

Though Russia is scrapping many of its warheads under bilateral agreements with the United States, its arsenal remains large. There are some 60 warehouses scattered across the country, containing some 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads, and just under 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons, including portable warheads known as "nuclear briefcases". Each month three or four armoured trains containing warheads trundle across the country, and according to the CIA such trains have attracted the attention of Chechen terror groups. In its annual report to Congress, the CIA noted that representatives from two Chechen groups had been seen hanging around at railway junctions outside Moscow trying to get information on the special trains.

Domestically, however, Col-Gen Valynkin's revelation about the attempted break-ins has been interpreted as an effort to secure greater American funding for Russia's cash-strapped nuclear storage facilities.

It is not the first time that Chechens have been accused of trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, the UK-based oligarch Boris Berezovsky said Chechen separatists had asked him if he wanted to buy "a nuclear briefcase". The FSB dismissed his claim as nonsense.

Russia insists it has elaborate measures in place to prevent nuclear theft. Guards are carefully vetted and must take regular lie detector tests, and storage facilities are allegedly ringed by hidden motion sensors for miles around. Col-Gen Valynkin said: "Today I can say that it is difficult for terrorists to penetrate our nuclear facilities. Nobody can give a 100 per cent guarantee ... but I guarantee 100 per cent that we securely protect nuclear weapons."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?