Russian Secret Chemical
Weapons Plant Revealed

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 article.
"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 peninsula."
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."