- In 1995, the world was only minutes away
from a retaliatory missile launch by Moscow, a launch that would have been
made in error, according to a television documentary.
- For the first time ever, President Boris
Yeltsin activated his process for a retaliatory attack against the West
when Russian early-warning stations picked up what they thought was an
approaching American Trident ballistic missile, The London Times reports.
- Ballistic missiles are generally used
to deliver different kinds of warheads, ranging from convention or nuclear
bombs to biological weapons.
- A Moscow news agency at the time announced
that Russia had shot down an incoming missile launched from northern Europe.
It turned out to be a Norwegian weather research rocket. The Russian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs had been forewarned by the Norwegian authorities six
weeks earlier, but the information was not passed on to the appropriate
- But in a reconstruction of the incident,
including interviews with key Russian military officials, Britain's Channel
4 Equinox program has discovered how close the world was to a ballistic
missile launch by Moscow, the Times reports.
- After the approaching missile was spotted,
Moscow began a ten-minute countdown in the belief that an American Trident
submarine in the Norwegian Sea or Barents Sea had launched a missile.
- At six minutes to impact, the Russians
switched on a special communications circuit which connected military headquarters
with silo-based missiles, and missile-carrying trains and submarines. At
five minutes to impact, Yeltsin would have had to make a decision about
transmitting "unblocking codes" to make a launch possible.
- Colonel Robert Bykov, a former commander
of a mobile missile regiment, part of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces,
reveals in the program that orders were given to Russian ballistic missile
submarines to go on battle stations.
- Bruce Blair, a former American nuclear
forces commander, says: "The military actually issued orders to the
Strategic Rocket Forces to prepare to receive the next command, which would
have been the launch order."
- The launch of the Norwegian Black Brent
XXII rocket ended "successfully" when it crashed into the Arctic
ocean more than 600 miles from Russian territory. It was part of a joint
Norwegian-American project investigating the Northern Lights.
- Moscow abandoned the countdown when it
realized the missile's trajectory was not on its territory.