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Russia Gets Ballistic Missiles From Ukraine

Moving to bolster its strategic might despite financial problems, Russia has acquired a batch of Soviet-built ballistic missiles from Ukraine and is preparing to begin producing a new generation of nuclear submarines, officials said Friday.

Ukraine inherited the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal with the Soviet collapse but later renounced nuclear weapons and transferred all its 1,300 nuclear warheads to Russia for destruction. But Ukraine's space agency reportedly took over some 30 RS-18 missiles, called SS-19s by NATO.

The Ukrainian government decided last October to sell its SS-19s to Russia, and the Interfax-Military News Agency reported Friday that Ukraine had completed their transfer. An unidentified spokesman at Ukraine's Ukrspetsexport refused to say how many missiles were sold and how much money it earned.

A spokesman for Russia's Strategic Missile Forces confirmed in a telephone interview that Russia had received the missiles, which he said were in good condition and would join Russia's strategic arsenal. He refused to elaborate.

According to the official data provided by Moscow under the START I arms reduction treaty with the United States and released by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Russia had 150 SS-19s with 900 nuclear warheads as of July 31, 2002.

Alexander Pikayev, a top nuclear arms analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the deal with Ukraine was a cheap way for Russia to bolster its strategic arsenals. "It will allow Russia to save funds that would have to be spent on building expensive new missiles," Pikayev said in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday that in 2006, the navy would receive a new nuclear submarine armed with next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles currently under development, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported. The first new submarine, called the Yury Dolgoruky, will be followed by other submarines of the same type, he said.

(The Moscow Times 28.vii.03)

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