Primakov, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, along with Burbulis, First Deputy Prime Minister and President Yeltsin are accused of suppressing all information about the 'red mercury' (identified as Hg2Sb2O7), while selling it abroad for hard currency. The memorandum prepared by Primakov for Burbulis outlines the huge potential for exporting 'red mercury,' a super-conductive material used for producing high-precision conventional and nuclear bomb explosives, 'stealth' surfaces and self-guided warheads. The memorandum also provided market rate for one gram of the material (from $320 to $380).

Primakov has advised Burbulis that the 'red mercury' was being illegally exported through various intermediaries in Eastern and Central Europe (e.g. the Hungarian company Ferrometa KFT). Primary end-users are major aerospace and nuclear-industry companies in the USA and France along with the nations aspiring to join the nuclear club, such as South Africa, Israel, Iran, Iraq and Libya. On the basis of the memorandum, President Yeltsin signed Decree No.75-rps 'On the Promekologiya Concern' on 21 February 1992, which gave that company exclusive rights to storage, transportation and exports of 'red mercury.' The annual export quota for Promekologiya was set at 10 tons. Apart from that, the company was exempted from taxation. Sadykov, President of Promekologiya, responded with a letter urging tight regulation over unsanctioned 'red mercury' exports, conducted mostly by former KGB operatives and Communist Party apparatchiks. Sadykov also emphasized that his company has already received over $40 billion in orders from various major companies abroad. On 20 March 1993, President Yeltsin nullified the decree 'On the Promekologiya Concern,' allegedly in order to prevent any public scrutiny of the operation.

Abstract Number:  19930380
Headline:  Yeltsingate
Date:  17 April 1993
Bibliography:  Pravda, p. 3
Material:  'red mercury'

April 17, 1993

This article is part of a collection examining reported incidents of nuclear or radioactive materials trafficking in or originating from the Newly Independent States.

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.