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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian National-Level Nuclear Weapons Storage

The declassified NIE 11-2A-65, The Soviet Atomic Energy Program, (19 May 1965) describes how the Soviet nuclear weapons storage system developed in three distinct phases during the 1950s and early 1960s: During 1951-1955, "about six stockpile sites of all classes," were created; in the next phase, covering approximately 1955-1958, "at least 18 additional stockpile sites of all classes were activated bringing the total to about 24 at the end of 1958;" and from 1958 until the publication of the NIE, a third phase "of rapidly accelerated construction," was apparent. Also, during the third phase, the capacity of existing sites was increased "substantially."

According to the NIE, there were three classes of Soviet nuclear weapons storage facilities: storage facilities associated with nuclear weapons production facilities, "national reserve stockpile facilities, and operational and regional storage sites at military bases in direct support of military operations."

The storages associated with the nuclear weapons production facilities and the national-level reserve stockpile storages are under the control of the 12th Main Directorate (Glavnoye Upravleniye Ministerstvo Oborony) or 12th GUMO of the Ministry of Defense. The 12th GUMO is one of the MOD's "main and central directorates" and serves as the organization in charge of storage and security of nuclear weapons. As well as controlling the national-level stockpile storage sites, the Directorate helps to develop the requirements for nuclear weapons, takes possession of nuclear weapons upon production, controls the movement of nuclear weapons, services nuclear warheads, inspects nuclear weapons facilities, and provides the standards for the security of nuclear weapons in the possession of the armed services. In recent years the 12th GUMO has additionally become responsible for dismantling nuclear weapons prior to their final disassembly by the Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom), and ensuring the safety of existing ones. As of fall 1998, some 30,000 servicemen are in the 12th Directorate, 45 per cent of which are officers.

According to the statement of the President of the USSR of 5 October 1991 and that of the President of the Russian Federation of 29 January 1992 Russia, all tactical nuclear weapons have been removed from the ships and multipurpose submarines, as well as the Navy land-based aircraft and placed at the sites of centralized storage. All nuclear weapons previously deployed outside Russia have been withdrawn into its territory, and their elimination has begun. As of early 2000 one-third of the total number of nuclear ammunition for the tactical sea-based and Navy aircraft missiles had been destroyed, and half of the total number of nuclear anti-aircraft missile warheads and a half of nuclear air bombs have been destroyed. The destruction of the nuclear tactical missile warheads, artillery shells and nuclear mines is coming to its completion.

The breakup of the Soviet Union led to a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons storages. In November 1997, the U.S. Defense Department's Proliferation: Threat and Response, estimated that: "With the consolidation of tactical nuclear warheads and the transfer of strategic warheads, the number of storage sites holding warheads has been reduced from over 500 facilities to fewer than 100." Russian statements also indicate a large reduction in the number of storage facilities has taken place. In 1995, Col. General Yevgeny Maslin, Chief of 12th GUMO, claimed that Russia had reduced the number of nuclear-capable bases by over 250 by 1995. In 1996, he declared the number of nuclear storage facilities in Russia had declined to one-third of their 1991 levels. In regards to the possible number of remaining storages, in November 1997, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev noted one reason that Russia could not support a ban on anti-personnel mines was that, "there will be no replacement for them in the 80 protection areas around nuclear installations."

Of these 80 storage sites, some sixteen are thought to be large national-level nuclear weapons storage sites, but it is not clear that all of these are operational. One recent Russian press report offered this description of a national-level nuclear weapons storage site: "On average there are around a dozen structures on a unit's territory, each with six to eight storage facilities. The storage facilities contain 40-50 special items each." Assuming that this means six to eight storage bunkers, some 240 - 400 warheads could be stored a national-level storage facility.


From the Kola peninsula in northwest of Russia to the Far East in the Khabarovsk Kray, national-level storages are located near:

  • Olenegorsk: on the Kola peninsula south of Murmansk
  • Bulyzhino: western Russia several miles from the intersection of the Russian, Latvian and Byelorussian borders
  • Chebsara: western Russia, north of Moscow
  • Mozhaysk: just west of Moscow
  • Zhukovka: western Russia, northwest of Bryansk
  • Golovchino: western Russia, several miles from the Ukrainian border, southwest of Voronezh
  • Borisoglebsk: western Russia, just northwest of the town of the same name
  • Krasnoarmeyskoye: western Russia, south of Saratov
  • Nizhnyaya Tura: Ural region, near Sverdlovsk-45
  • Karabash: Ural region, west of Chelyabinsk-65
  • Yuryuzan: Ural region, near Zlatoust-36
  • Dodonovo: Siberia, near Krasnoyarsk-26
  • Zalari: Siberia, northwest of Irkutsk
  • Malaya Sazanka: Far East, south of Svobodnyy
  • Khabarovsk: Far East
  • Komsomolsk-na-Amure: Far East (possibly located southwest of Komsomolsk near Bolon)

Ten of these facilities have been found on declassified Corona imagery (note: further review of the Corona material may uncover more storages). Overall, the declassified Corona satellite imagery from the 1960s and early 1970s shows that some half a dozen or more bunkers may be at a single national-level nuclear weapons storage site. They are inside a squarish or polygonal fenced area encompassing several square kilometers (4 - 9 km2 or 2-3 kilometers across). The actual facility, including associated housing complexes, heliports and railhead (the last which may be several miles away), covers a larger area. Several, are built in ravined areas where the bunkers seemingly may continue into a hill-side.

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