Comrade Criminal: Russia's New Mafia
This book describes a number of cases in which fissile material or material on the NSG dual-use control list was either diverted or smuggled from Russia. In May 1992, a businessman from Milan was arrested as he attempted to sell uranium, plutonium, and deuterium to two Israelis. The Italian hinted that the material was from Russia. Another case of uranium diversion involved 50 kg of uranium stolen by 15 workers from a metallurgical plant that produces enriched uranium in Udmurtiya, Russia (see Segodnya, 15 September 1994). The workers, led by 32 year-old Sergei Suvorov, had found buyers in Lithuania who purchased samples of the 50 kg. A 'larger consignment' of the 50 kg of uranium was then seized in St. Petersburg, where police mistook it for zirconium. Suvorov's ring proceeded to sell 10 kg of uranium to a commercial firm in the city of Izhevsk for 270,000 rubles. The ring was finally broken up when Polish police in Brest, responding to a call about disorderly behaviour, stumbled onto uranium and arrested members of the ring. Within months, all 15 members of the ring were arrested. The plant officials, which had allowed for a four-percent margin of error on accounting, had never considered that an inside-job could occur.
In addition to uranium diversions, this book reported cases involving smugglers who dealt in other strategic materials. In 1992, more than $500,000 worth of metals, including titanium and aluminum, were illegally shipped through Estonia every day. In Verkhnyaya Solda, near Yekaterinburg, a factory manager falsified production reports and accumulated 11 tons of titanium. The titanium was exported to a foreign buyer even after Russian military intelligence temporarily seized the shipment as it left the Verkhnyaya Solda factory (titanium alloys are on the dual-use list). Finally, Handelman cited a story from Literaturnaya Gazeta in which a smuggling purchased enriched uranium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, monthly and carried it on foot in lead lined backpacks through the Pamir Mountains' pass to Afghanistan. Another newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, reported that Gennadiy Burbulis was involved in the attempted smuggling of 84 tons of red mercury (see 6 December 1994, The Wall Street Journal.)
Abstract Number: 19952600
Headline: Comrade Criminal: Russia's New Mafia
Author: Stephen Handelman
Material: uranium, 'red mercury'
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright © 2011 by MIIS.
This article is part of a collection examining reported incidents of nuclear or radioactive materials trafficking in or originating from the Newly Independent States.
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