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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Washington Times April 1, 1997, Tuesday

Moscow builds bunkers against nuclear attack;

Subway to Yeltsin house in works

Bill Gertz

Russia is continuing a Cold War-era program to build deep underground bunkers, subways and command posts to help Moscow's leaders flee the capital and survive a nuclear attack, The Washington Times has learned. Among the ambitious projects: a secret subway being built directly to the residence of Russian President Boris Yeltsin outside Moscow. "The underground construction appears larger than previously assessed," a CIA report labeled "top secret" reported two weeks ago. "Three decrees last year on an emergency planning authority under Yeltsin with oversight of underground facility construction suggest that the purpose of the Moscow-area projects is to maintain continuity of leadership during nuclear war."

A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Times from defense sources. A CIA spokesman declined to comment. Disclosure of the secret multibillion-dollar construction program comes less than two weeks after President Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin agreed in Helsinki to extend the deadline for nuclear arms cuts under the START II treaty because of Russian concerns over "dismantlement costs."

U.S. officials said the Russian spending on strategic defenses, coupled with ongoing procurement of new strategic missiles and submarines, raises questions about Moscow's claims not to have funds needed to carry out START II reductions. The outlays also raise new worries among some U.S. officials about whether U.S. aid to Russia is allowing Moscow to spend its money on building new strategic forces and facilities. "How can the United States be so gullible to accept Russian claims that it doesn't have the money to comply with START II when it's made the decision to modernize its forces and build these underground facilities?" asked one U.S. government defense official.

According to the CIA report, construction work is continuing on a "nuclear-survivable, strategic command post at Kosvinsky Mountain," located deep in the Ural Mountains about 850 miles east of Moscow. Satellite photographs of Yamantau Mountain, also located about 850 miles east of Moscow in the Urals near the town of Beloretsk, show continued digging at the "deep underground complex" and new construction at each of the site's above-ground support areas, the CIA stated. Yamantau Mountain means "Evil Mountain" in the local Bashkir langauge.

"The command post at Kosvinsky appears to provide the Russians with the means to retaliate against a nuclear attack," the CIA report said. "The rationale for the Yamantau complex is unclear." According to the CIA report, the Russians are building or renovating four complexes within Moscow that would be used to house senior Russian government leaders during a nuclear strike.

A map published in the report showed new subway construction under way from Victory Park Station in Moscow to Mr. Yeltsin's dacha, some 13 miles west of the Kremlin and about four miles from the Moscow Ring Road. Additionally, the CIA report stated that a bunker for Russian leaders at Voronovo, about 46 miles south of Moscow, is nearly complete. A second bunker located at Sharapovo, some 34 miles from Moscow, has a special underground subway running directly to it. The subway system for Russian leaders allows for "rapid evacuation of leaders during wartime from Moscow," the CIA said. Presumably, the leadership would then be flown to the Yamantau or Kosvinsky complexes. According to the report, Mr. Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin endorsed the construction of the bunkers, subways and command posts, and funding for the Yamantau facility was listed for the first time this year in the Russian federal budget.

Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst and author of a new book on Russian nuclear operations, said the continued construction of the Russian strategic defense sites is ominous and cannot be dismissed by U.S. officials as "inertia" from Cold War-era strategic policies. "It shows they take the threat of nuclear war so seriously that they're willing to spend scarce resources on it," Mr. Pry said, adding that he was not familiar with the CIA report. "These things are tying down billions of dollars in rubles that could go into other enterprises the Russians need - for example, providing housing for Russian military officers." Mr. Pry said Russian press reports say the underground facility at Yamantau Mountain covers an area as large as the Capital Beltway.

The Clinton administration has been providing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Russia to help Moscow dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Despite the aid, the CIA report shows that the Russians are building both defensive and offensive strategic facilities and weapons, including a new type of long-range strategic missile and a new strategic missile submarine.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said in February that both the reliability and control of Russian nuclear weapons were in question because of the deterioration of the armed forces, but Pentagon officials have dismissed the statements as posturing by Mr. Rodionov in a bid to boost his budget.

Mr. Pry said the Russian construction program also shows that Russian leaders do not see a diminished threat of nuclear conflict. "This is a manifestation of the Russians' continued war-fighting attitudes," Mr. Pry said. "They believe in the idea that you can survive and prevail in a nuclear conflict. These kinds of facilities are designed to survive for weeks and months."

By contrast, U.S. nuclear protective facilities have been largely shut down. The complex underneath the Greenbriar resort in Virginia was abandoned, along with another facility in Virginia known as Mount Weather, U.S. officials have said.

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