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Armenia, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, Environment, International Relations, Karabakh

Nuclear Alarm from Armenia


_87709331_thinkstockphotos-182262675After the four-day intensive skirmishes in early April along the line of contact in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, Armenian politicians made the headlines with their bellicose rhetoric by declaring “the presence of the nuclear weapon in Armenia”. Thus, the former prime minister of Armenia and current member of parliament Hrant Bagratyan has claimed at a press conference on April 29 at the Armenian Media Centre that “We have the capacity to create nuclear weapons, [adding] we have nuclear weapons [in order] to protect Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh against further attacks”. The head of the parliamentary fractions of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Dashnaktsutyun” Armen Rustamyan made a supportive statement saying, “Hrant Bagratyan has grounds for such a statement as he has been a prime minister, [adding] who said that, we are banned of producing the weapons”.

These statements raised amidst the recent operation of the State Security Service of Georgia, where they detained three citizens of Armenia in Georgia, who were trying to smuggle the radioactive materials (uranium U238) worth to $200 million. It was supposed that the attempts of smuggling was orchestrated by Armenian businessmen backed by their government circle. The affiliation of detained Armenians to the Armenian Security Service was not excluded as well. The investigation indicates that, each of them had previously been employees of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, an outdated Chernobyl-type NPP located in an earthquake-sensitive zone. Meanwhile, the nuclear fuels and radioactive wastes from Metsamor NPP are kept in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region is used for illegal smuggling of nuclear materials.

Armine Sahakyan, a columnist for the Kyiv Post writes in the Huffington Post that, past years Armenian citizens have been particularly active in smuggling of the nuclear substances in the region. They have been arrested in Georgia more than once while carrying the highly enriched uranium (capable of making a bomb) through Georgia. Armenian citizens have been previously detained several times because of smuggling of the radioactive substances in Ukraine (Beregovo, 1999), in Georgia (Samskhe-Javakheti, 2001; Sadakhli-Bagratashen, 2003/2004/2009/2014; Sarpi, 2007; Tbilisi, 2000/2010) and in Armenia (Meghri, 2003).

Since Armenia is a landlocked country, the smugglers can use the territories of Georgia to access to Black Sea ports for trafficking of radioactive materials, possibly to the Middle East, writes Sahakyan. Although, Georgian State Security Service has not detected the prospective buyer[s], but they were supposed to be Al-Qaeda and the ISIS. Because, reportedly by intelligence officials, ISIS and other terrorist groups are trying to obtain relevant materials to build a “dirty bomb” which they could explode in Europe or the United States.

Moreover, retired Armenian Maj.Gen. Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan had earlier voiced the possibility of utilization of the dirty bomb by Armenia against Azerbaijan. “Armenia has a weapon created by Armenians, which the enemy is not aware of, in order to apply it in the most difficult time”, said Ter-Tadevosyan.

Right a month after Ter-Tadevosyan’s statement, on May 10, the representatives of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action territories (ANAMA) have found two unexploded ammunitions greased with banned white phosphorus in Eskipara and Garagadzhi villages of Azerbaijan. The Armenian armed units had used these projectiles during the shelling of Terter district in April.

Actually, this was 122 mm artillery shell (type D-4) containing 3.6 kg of P-4 (chemical code of white phosphorus), which is prohibited by international conventions. The radius of shrapnel from the explosion of this projectile is 15-20 meters and it creates a toxic cloud of white smoke on the site of the explosion, which is fatal for all living organisms in the affected area. A dose of 0.1 grams of white phosphorus is lethal for humans. An officer of the chemical service in the Defence Ministry, Lieutenant-Colonel Mustajab Niyarov says that the white phosphorus is used for equipping the aerial bombs, aircraft cluster munitions, artillery shells and mines.

Upon those events, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan organized a trip to the frontline zone for the accredited military attaches in Azerbaijan, where they were informed on the ground with facts of application of the ammunitions covered with banned white phosphorus by Armenia. According to the spokesman of Azerbaijan’s MFA Hikmet Hajiyev, “given the fact that many civilians live in this village, the main purpose of the Armenian armed forces have been achieving the mass destruction of the civilian population through the use of banned ammunitions with the chemical composition”.

To sum up, Armenian politicians publicly urged on possibility of using the nuclear weapons in the military operations against Azerbaijan, though former is a signatory to the “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, the “Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material” and the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Bacteriological, Chemical and Toxin Weapons”.

The past several years, the world community focused their attention on the nuclear talks with Iran only, while neglecting the possible nuclear weapon spots in the neighbourhood. The bellicose rhetoric of Armenia politicians on possibility of “utilization of nuclear weapons” is not far different from the warnings of possible nuclear offensive of North Korea towards South Korea in early March. The use of ammunitions containing chemical compositions would be hazardous for hundreds of life, similar to which was observed in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s regime used the chemical weapons. Thus, the legal and security ramifications of the issue should not be neglected. The irresponsible statements from Armenia should be carefully examined and immediately reacted by the international organizations and the retaliatory measures should be applied if necessary. Otherwise, undesirable incidents may occur in the region.

Ilgar Gurbanov

The article was originally published by EurActiv.com: Nuclear Alarm from Armenia

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