Ukrainian Authorities Arrest Four Armenians Selling Russian Uranium

KIEV (BBC)–Law-enforcement officials of the Transcarpathian directorate for fighting organized crime foiled an attempt at selling 20 kilograms of enriched uranium ore. The head of the Transcarpathian Regional directorate for fighting organized crime–police colonel Vasyl Vartsaba–told ‘Fakty i Kommentarii’ that four Armenia’s–residents of the Krasnoyarsk and Stavropol areas of Russia–had come to Ukraine in December 1998.

The Armenia’s soon ended up starting an intensive search for a customer to buy the radioactive material. For two months–their search resulted in nothing and the Armenia’s reduced the price from $60,000 per kg to $35,000 (which is hardly comparable with its real price). But several weeks ago they found a customer. They agreed to sell 2 kg of uranium ore at a bus terminal in Berehovo town. The buyer brought the money and one of the Armenia’s brought the uranium in a sports bag. Obviously the sports bag was not radiation-safe so the bag was highly radioactive. Both the buyer and the seller were arrested while making the deal.

One Armenian confessed during an interrogation that 18 kg more of the uranium was being kept in one of the neighboring villages. Law-enforcement officials moved fast to Badalovo village–where they found the radioactive substance hidden on the land of a local peasant. The radioactive substance–wrapped in rubber–was not very deeply buried near a house. The second Armenian was arrested the same day. The police were terrified when they learned how the Armenia’s had handled the radioactive substance. They picked up the uranium with their bare hands to pour it into another rubber sack several times and received heavy radiation doses.

The same day–the radioactive substance was submitted to nuclear physicists from Uzhhorod state university. They said the substance was enriched uranium ore. The Transcarpathian Regional Prosecutor’s Office has opened a criminal case against the Armenia’s.

The uranium ore is known to have been stolen at a radioactive materials recycling facility in Krasnoyarsk. When and how it was stolen is the subject of an investigation.

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