The mystery of the missing nuclear warheads from Ukraine still has not been disclosed, but the fact of loss is recognized
Everyone knows that in 90 years, Ukraine has voluntarily given up all nuclear weapons and strategic missiles and strategic weapons of military aircraft. Kiev widely advertised these steps as the proof of the commitment of the young state of peace and disarmament. Less well known is that this failure was not entirely voluntary, and there was a fairly strong pressure of both the West and Russia. And it is very little known, about the nuclear arsenal Ukraine inherited from USSR.
Ukraine renounced nuclear weapons, whose number is unknown, and the error in their calculation, according to various estimates, is up to 200 warheads. Perhaps it will surprise readers. But for the careful observer there is nothing surprising here. The fact is that after more than 15 years after the complete withdrawal of Ukraine's nuclear weapons (and this happened on the night of June 2, 1996), the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine did not bother to inform accurately - how much it was taken?
It is known that ground-based strategic nuclear group in Ukraine totaled 1240 warheads. More at the head of 130 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) UR-100N (NATO - SS-19 Stilleto) ICBM and 46 RT-23UTTH (NATO - SS-24 Scalpel) physically could not be located. But while the national Department of Defense until the end of 2001, first reported back on the "over 1600" of such warheads, and in 2002-2010 years - about 1272 warheads!
Upon completion of the withdrawal of warheads ICBMs from Ukraine state news agency "Ukrinform" officially announced (and later the information was deleted from the tapes of the agency, but is preserved in secondary sources) on the withdrawal of only 1271 warheads. The discrepancy even in one warhead is alarming given that we are dealing with nuclear warheads with capacity of 550 kilotons (for comparison - the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a power of 12 kilotons).
Similar "absurdities" occurred for heavy strategic bombers whose numbers were to be reduced under START-1 (START-1). It is known that Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union 44 such machines. But Command Air Forces over the years insisted that it only has 42 such aircraft. Although it was not about trivia, but about 200-ton machines cost (even with their bad technical condition), several tens of millions of U.S. dollars each.
A similar disorder was, and with cruise missiles onboard these bombers namely X-55 (RKV-500, according to NATO classification - AS-15 Kent). Export of their nuclear warheads to Russia was made in 1992 in exchange for counterclaims supply of nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. And around the rocket itself began a complicated bargaining among Kiev, Moscow and Washington.In 1999 the parties reached a compromise: 581 missiles (including all capable of carrying nuclear warheads), together with those of their carriers (heavy bombers), which are still able to fly, go to Russia as payment for gas debts of the Ukrainian side.
Tu-95 Long-range Bomber Weapon’s Bay caryin Kent Missiles MKU-6-5 rotary launcher
Russia liquidated 487 missiles and bombers with the financial assistance and under the control of the United States. The program was executed over the next two years. And this was done in public - as the next big step of Kiev in the field of strategic disarmament.
It is true that even then there were some discrepancies. By the end of 2000, according to official data from the Ukrainian side, 581 X-55 units were at the disposal of long-range (strategic) Russian Air Force. And then Moscow said: from Kiev received only 575 cruise missiles. Did Ministry of Defence has received 581 or 575 cruise missiles?
Meanwhile, Ukrainian stocks of cruise missiles were successfully disposed of, and soon the official representatives of the Ministry of Defence warn about the elimination of 483 units of X-55. Somewhat later, this figure had risen to 487 units. Now an elementary problem in addition and formal logic: 587 + 483 (or 487) = 1070 (or 1074), respectively. So how does the number of cruise missiles in 1068 succeeded in eliminating the 1074 unit? Elementary logic here does not help, and should be encouraged, obviously, experts in the field of paranormal phenomena. However, in this "adventure" X-55 in Ukraine is not over, but more on that later.
Of greatest interest is, of course, the fate of tactical nuclear weapons (because of its potential suitability for use for terrorist purposes.) Immediately, I note that Kiev had never published the exact number withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine tactical nuclear weapons - only reported that there were "about 2500" or "more than 2500". Which of these numbers more in line with reality, it was not possible to establish, since both are simultaneously featured in news reports of the Ministry of Defence.
Whatever it was, given 1272 ICBM warheads, the total number of nuclear warheads in Ukraine during its secession from the USSR was to be, according to the Defense Ministry, around 3720-3820 units. However, in April 2002, the then First Deputy Chief of General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Palchuk quite officially announced on behalf of the General Staff: "for years of functioning of the armed forces of Ukraine more than 4 thousand nuclear warheads removed from Ukraine."
However, while agreeing that the policy is not a matter of crystal cleanliness, it is difficult to still not be perceived as leading to sad thoughts the fact that after 15 years since the official withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the territory of Ukraine, Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed its forces can not agree even among themselves - and how many were actually on the territory of Ukraine?
Ukrainian defense ministry also can not give answers, on a number of other unpleasant issues. For example, how come that officially the last missile UR-100N were removed or withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine is the 1999 year, and three years later suddenly it turned out that Kiev has 31 of such ICBMs? Incidentally, in April 1998 Parliamentary Temporary Commission of Inquiry verified that Ministry of Defence of Russia have been sold 24 ICBMs of that type. But they missed perhaps the most interesting piece: of the 24 UR-100N sent (according to the documents), Russia has got only 19. The fate of the remaining five missiles (each weighing 106 tons with a range of up to 10 sq km, is designed for six nuclear warheads 550 kilotons of TNT equivalent) to this day is covered with a mist of uncertainty.
Not everything is in order with the transactions found in the database of UNROCA. Thus, in 2002-2004 Ukraine (as it was officially reported to the UN) has sent a further 29 units of UR-100N ICBM to Russia. The transaction perfectly legal and is not suspicious, if not for one detail: according to the same official data of the Ministry of defence of Ukraine it has 31 ICBMs of this type. Where are the two 106-ton ICBMs- also remains a mystery?
Is there any X-55 in Iran?
Ukraine must prove that she has a strong export control system capable of effectively taking care of export of weapons and high technology, including the military and dual purpose technology.
The need for further evidence emerged after then-Attorney General of Ukraine Svyatoslav Piskun from the March 2005 interview with the Financial Times admitted that his country sold 12 cruise missiles X-55 to Iran and 6 to China. True, Mr. Piskun said that the missiles had ‘no’ warheads. But soon the press service of the Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine stated that the words of its leader have been interpreted incorrectly & the correct word would be ‘smuggling’ rather than for ‘sold’.
Of course, this is an important caveat. After all, if the sale of cruise missiles to Iran and China involved official governmental structure, then Ukraine grossly violated the regime of control over missile technology. If it's smuggling which (as found out later) involved secret service agents, then it looks as if it is not so scandalous. But in reality, it is hard to get rid of the feeling that such an operation could be performed only by a small group of smugglers.
In January 2005, people's deputy of Ukraine Hryhoriy Omelchenko announced at the session of the Verkhovna Rada deputy's request to the Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun and the chairman of the Ukrainian Security Service, Colonel-General Igor Smeshko to provide the national parliament information about the circumstances of the illegal sale abroad of cruise missiles and related military Property in 1999-2001.
In his message, Mr. Omelchenko stated that before that cruise missiles were hidden in the warehouses of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, although the documents signed by senior officials of the ministry, they were listed as liquidated. In response, Ukraine's Security Service reported that in 2004 "has been identified and discontinued operations of international criminal gang of arms dealers who tried to illegally export from Ukraine of 20 cruise missiles, air-based types of X-55 X-55M Soviet-made, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and other military goods." February 17, 2004 the Ukrainian Security Service opened a criminal investigation into the smuggling of cruise missiles X-55 and other weapons from Ukraine.
During the Ukrainian-Russian consultations in July 2003 on the implementation of bilateral agreements on the elimination of nuclear warheads removed from the territory of Ukraine, the Russian side confirmed that all the tactical and strategic nuclear munitions were to be removed from Ukraine, and dismantled at the appropriate enterprises of the Russian Federation under the supervision of Ukrainian observers.
Of course, it is unlikely that the Soviet nuclear weapons, inherited by Ukraine, got "in the wrong hands." Otherwise, its new owners would likely have long proved themselves with the worst hand. Yet the mystery of the fate of the Soviet "nuclear legacy" in an amount not less than 180 tactical nuclear warheads, and at least a few strategic missiles (ICBMs and cruise) still remains unsolved.
The author of this article is a staunch supporter of the widest possible dissemination of information of public interest. However, categorically do not accept the approach, when available free public information is used to make money on it. Therefore, the author says, the use of information contained in this article to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI) and its counterpart in Ukraine - Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies.Alexander Razumkov possible only with the written consent of the author. The rest of the individuals and entities may use the above information is absolutely free - of course, subject to proper attribution.
Material prepared by: Sergey Goncharov - a military journalist