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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Postavy SS-20 Deployment Area
55 12 13 N 027 00 00 E
54 52 47 N 026 41 18 E
54 43 58 N 026 04 07 E
55 01 13 N 026 03 43 E
Missile Operating Base
55 09 47 N 026 54 21 E

The north of Belarus was ideally suited for the top-secret military units of the Soviet Union: not far from Postavy, missiles capable of carrying a nuclear charge were deployed. Along the western border of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, there were military installations that instilled fear in NATO countries. One of these was the top-secret Dvina.

Postavy district is located in the west of the Vitebsk region. It borders on Braslav, Sharkovshchinsky, Gluboksky, Myadelsky and Dokshitsky regions, as well as on Lithuania. The area of this administrative unit is 2096.44 km 2 (this is the seventh indicator in the Vitebsk region). The northern part of the Postavy region is located on the Disna lowland, while the southern part belongs to the territory of the Sventsyansky ridges, which determines its hilly terrain with a large number of lakes. The highest point is Mount Mayak, located on the territory of the Lyntup village council.

The rich cultural heritage, as well as proximity to the European Union, create excellent conditions for the development of tourism. Already today, tens of thousands of people come here to enjoy the beauty of pristine nature. Nevertheless, the basis of the local economy is still formed by agriculture and forestry. Postavy is unique in that a whole complex of buildings belonging to the Baroque architectural style has been preserved here. It was built in the 1770-1780s with the participation of the famous Italian architect Giuseppe di Sacco. One-story buildings with characteristic figured pediments seem to have left the illustration for a fairy tale.

The town of Postavy has a rich Cold War legacy. Two decades ago, the area was occupied by the 346th strategic regiment of the 32nd missile division. The Strategic Rocket Forces were armed with all types of ballistic missiles. Today any local citizen will eagerly show you the way to the underground launch facility. Postavy was Headquarters of an RVSN Division, 1960-1993, anda base for units deployed with 12 R-12 missile launchers. Later, nine RT-2PM SS-25 "Sickle" regiments (81 launchers) were deployed in missile divisions in Belarus - near the towns of Lida (36 units), Mozyr (36 units), Postavy (9 units).

In the mid-1950s, in Dnepropetrovsk, a special design bureau No. 586 began to develop a qualitatively new ballistic missile with a longer flight radius (up to 2000 kilometers), increased accuracy and combat readiness. The missile entered service in 1958 under the designation R-12 (according to NATO classification SS-4 "Sandal"). One of its fundamental differences from its predecessors was the use of long-term fuel components (kerosene and nitric acid), due to which a fully charged complex could be on alert for up to 30 days.

The security of the R-12 left much to be desired. Ground launch complexes were a vulnerable target. Any missile could be destroyed by a 1 megaton enemy warhead explosion fired at a distance of 5 kilometers. Then the designers figured out how to increase the "survivability" of Soviet missiles: they decided to hide them in silos underground.

Only two silo launch complexes were built on the territory of the BSSR. The first secret object was based in the Postavy region and was equipped with R-12U missiles, the second was located near Smorgon and was loaded with R-14U missiles. Exactly the same and other underground launchers were deployed in Ukraine, the Baltic states, the North Caucasus and Western Siberia. They got their names from the names of the rivers. These names are consonant with the digital designation of ballistic missiles: R-12U - "Dvina", R-14U - "Chusovaya", R-16U - "Sheksna", R-9A - "Desna".

Not far from the Belarusian town of Postavy, in the wilderness, there were silos where R-12U missiles were on alert, capable of destroying targets at a distance of two thousand kilometers. The Dvina facility had four missile silos placed along the edges of a 70 by 80 meter rectangle with a technological block in its center. Each shaft went underground for 30 meters and had a width of 7 meters. In the central part there was an underground two-level bunker that combined a command post, a storage of fuel components, a power supply unit, and various machine rooms.

The silo, packed with mechanisms and apparatuses, allowed for rapid launch of R-12 missiles stored underground. The rails were cut off, and the vertical container whose depth is comparable to a 15-storey building is gradually flooded with water. Between four equidistant silos there is a pillbox. Underneath is the operations control post situated at a depth of a three-storey building.

About two kilometers from the flooded silos in the forest is an abandoned missile base of the 32nd division of the Strategic Missile Forces (military unit 29492). On its territory, the headquarters, barracks, club, garages, many auxiliary structures have been preserved - everything was built according to some kind of standard project of the 1960s.

Postavy Army Barracks is located 3 kilometers (km) east of Postavy (55-07N 026-50E) along the Postavy-Krulevshchina rail line. The installation does not appear to be directly rail served, but a good road leads to a rail siding one km northwest of the installation. Secondary roads connect with Postavy and the all-weather Polotsk-Vilnius highway. An abandoned tank firing range located 4 km northeast and a probable tracked-vehicle driver training course located 5.5 km southwest are associated with this installation. Postavy Army Barracks buildings, 12 support buildings, and three vehicle is located 5 km west.

In the mid-1970s the Soviet Union achieved rough strategic parity with the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union began replacing older intermediate-range SS-4 and SS-5 missiles with a new intermediate-range missile, the SS-20, bringing about what was perceived as a qualitative and quantitative change in the European security situation. The SS-20 was mobile, accurate, and capable of being concealed and rapidly redeployed. It carried three independently targetable warheads, as distinguished from the single warheads carried by its predecessors. The SS-20s 5,000 kilometer range permitted it to cover targets in Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and, from bases in the eastern Soviet Union, most of Asia, Southeast Asia, and Alaska.

At the June 1987 meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO foreign ministers announced support for the global elimination of all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range and shorter-range missile systems. On June 15, President Reagan proposed the elimination of all U.S. and Soviet shorter-range missile systems. On July 22, 1987, General Secretary Gorbachev agreed to a "double global zero" Treaty to eliminate intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. On August 26, 1987, Chancellor Kohl announced the Federal Republic of Germany would dismantle its 72 Pershing IA missiles and not replace them with more modern weapons if the United States and the Soviet Union scrapped all of their INF missiles as foreseen in the emerging Treaty. This was a unilateral declaration by the FRG and is not part of the INF Treaty, which is a bilateral U.S.-Soviet agreement.

In September, the two sides reached agreement in principle to complete the Treaty before the end of the year. On December 8, 1987, the Treaty was signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at a summit meeting in Washington. In late April and early May 1991, the United States eliminated its last ground-launched cruise missile and ground-launched ballistic missile covered under the INF Treaty. The last declared Soviet SS-20 was eliminated on May 11, 1991. A total of 2,692 missiles was eliminated after the Treaty's entry-into-force.

Following the December 25, 1991, dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States sought to secure continuation of full implementation of the INF Treaty regime and to multilateralize the INF Treaty with twelve former Soviet republics which the United States considers INF Treaty successors. Of the twelve successor states, six -- Belarus, Kazakstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan -- had inspectable INF facilities on their territory. Of these six, four -- Belarus, Kazakstan, Russia, and Ukraine -- were active participants in the process of implementing the Treaty.

After Moscow and Washington managed to achieve military-political detente, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range Missiles in 1987. The R-12U was removed from combat duty only in 1989, as part of the implementation of the INF Treaty. The last Belarusian silo-based missiles were destroyed in 1990 at the Lesnaya base near Baranovichi.

The first regiment of nine SS-25s stationed at Postavy was withdrawn in mid-1993. The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) were removed from Belarus in stages. The SRF consisted of two divisions stationed in Mozyr and Lida (eight rocket regiments), which were equipped with the SS-25 (RS-12) Topol mobile ICBM. The first regiment of 9 missiles, based in Postavy, was withdrawn to Russia during summer 1993. According to a Press Release from the Embassy of Belarus, four more regiments were leave Belarus in 1994, with the remaining regiments to return to Russia in 1995.

A contract was awarded in April 1995 to Arthur D. Little, Inc. (ADL) to complete site assessments at Postavy and Ruzhany, provide field technical training in conducting site assessments, prepare site remediation plans, train Belarusian officials in the organization and management of environmental remediation projects, and cosponsor an annual environmental conference. Site assessments at both Postavy and Ruzhany revealed similar contamination from semi-volatile organic materials and heavy metals. The Belarusian Government requested a change in focus from academic and governmental training to demonstration and training in the technologies recommended for remediation. Procurement actions were initiated to redirect ADLís efforts for Postavy, where the first site assessment is to be completed. These technologies would also have application to Ruzhany. An extension to the Environmental Restoration Agreement was signed, effective July 22, 1997.

In 2004, the former training center of the 32nd missile division military building was transformed into a health center. After missile removal the training center could have been transformed into a prison, and even a group of convicts were brought there. Later, fortunately, the idea was given up. About 1,000 soldiers lived in three barracks. Now these premises house childrenís sleeping rooms. Garages where Pioneer missiles were previously stored are now maintained by the health centerís motorcar unit. The missile regiment houses the resortís administration and a hotel, a school building was converted into a medical facility for young patients. The former soldiersí club is now used as an entertainment center where guests come to watch movies or dance. The canteen is also used as initially intended.

A few years ago, with the permission of the Postavy District Executive Committee, some private company sawed the missile silos into metal. Workers cut massive domes weighing 460 tons. Pumping out water from the mines, they got to the metal shafts and dismantled them, began to crush the walls of the technical block. Then some frauds were discovered, the Investigative Committee became interested in the company, and all work was curtailed. And the gaping mines were surrounded by barbed wire. The military facility, which was designed to protect a huge country, was practically wiped off the face of the earth. Now "Dvina" definitely does not pose any military threat, because it looks like it has already been bombed by a mock enemy.

Sources and Methods

  • Photographs and Site Diagrams Appended to the Memorandum of Understanding for the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, December 1987.
  • Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Establishment of the Data Base for the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, December 1987.

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Page last modified: 18-02-2022 19:01:05 ZULU