- OSLO (Reuters) - For the
last 15 years Russia has been operating a secret plant for producing and
storing deadly chemical weapons just east of Murmansk on the Kola peninsula,
the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang said Thursday.
- After a two-year search Verdens Gang said it had uncovered
the site in a forest a mile from Murmansk in northeastern Russia.
- It published a photograph showing hundreds of grey-white
plastic barrels stacked in the open air in a military compound. Nearby
lay rows of missiles piled high and mounds of explosives.
- Another picture showed an aerial view of a cluster of
barrack-type buildings which it said were stores for chemical weapons,
arms and anti-toxins.
- "An explosion at this plant could lead to an environmental
catastrophe in the Nordic region. There would be damage up to 150 miles
away," Verdens Gang said.
- The paper quoted unnamed "international experts"
who had studied the pictures as saying that "without doubt" chemicals
were being produced at the plant.
- Norway, which shares a 120-mile border with Russia at
the Kola peninsula, said it had approached Russian authorities over the
- "The Russians have told us today that there is no
change in their position, which is that there is no storage, research or
decommissioning of chemical weapons in the Kola region," Sigvald Hauge,
acting spokesman at the Foreign Ministry, told Reuters.
- "We are waiting for a more detailed reply but as
of today we have no indication that there are chemical weapons on the Kola
- Norwegian environmental group Bellona, which has detailed
radioactive pollution by Russia's Northern Fleet in the Kola area, said
it had heard rumors of such stores in the area.
- Bellona researcher Thomas Nilsen said Russia had about
40,000 tons of chemical weapons in seven stores around the country, none
of which were in northwest. VG's article was logical because the site was
close to the ammunition storage facilities for the Northern Fleet, he said.
- "But it is difficult to imagine that such quantities
of chemicals would be stored in open air. Many would degrade at the sort
of temperatures normal to Murmansk in winter between minus 30 and 35 degrees
(Celsius)," Nilsen said.
- "At the same time the missiles, which are clearly
visible, contain highly toxic fuel and this is a very unsuitable way to
store them because of the dangers of corrosion and explosion."