Friday, February 8, 2019

‘Delayed Action Mines’ under Russia a Reality Not Just a Metaphor, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7 – One of the metaphors employed in Russia to talk about looming disasters is the supposed existence of “delayed action mines” be they as Vladimir Putin has it the non-Russian republics left over from Soviet times or Putin’s past and present policies which are leading to disaster as his critics would have it.

            But the notion of “delayed action mines” is not just a metaphor: it is a dangerous reality, Igor Kiyan says. There are real mines and real bombs under Russia left over from the past that are just waiting to explode or to leak their dangerous components into the land, sea and air  (

            Unexploded bombs left over from World War II and the Cold War, explosives of various kinds, and aging buried containers of dangerous chemicals are too be found throughout Russia and the adjoining seas. After the collapse of the USSR, Moscow established a Registry of Potentially Dangerous Underwater Objects, but it is at best incomplete even regarding the seas.

            By 2008, the registry listed such dangerous objects; by 2015, that number had risen to 24,000. “Just how many there will be a year from know is unknown: the sea does not reveal its secrets” and the government is unwilling to report on all such “objects” lest it spark panic in the population. 

            Kiyan provides details on some of the more infamous of these, including sunken German submarines and transports in the Baltic Sea, unexploded ordinance in the Black Sea as well, and a massive dump of explosives in the mouth of the Yenisey River.  He also talks about Soviet programs of disposing nuclear waste in the Arctic.

            But certainly the most alarming if not necessarily the most immediately threatening are nuclear weapons that may lie on the sea beds as a result of the crash of Soviet aircraft carrying or at least capable of carrying nuclear weapons that Moscow was unable to recover and that presumably are still there.

            One case involves the crash of a Tu-95 known to be carrying nuclear weapons near the shores of Sakhalin. It is suspected but now confirmed that the US was able to raise these and take them back to America for study. A second occurred in 1964 when a Soviet bomber known to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons crashed in the Baltic.

            According to Kiyan, there are at least 1200 objects on the floor of the sea with radioactive materials in them. Most consist of nuclear waste that Soviet officials disposed of, but some consists of more dangerous things, as the two cases that are known suggest given that there may very well be more no one knows about.

            In addition to these seabed “unexploded mines,” of course, there are dangerous materials buried or even lying on the surface in many places in Russia, something that helps to explain the passion many Russians display in opposing the opening of dumps near their homes and that means every metaphorical reference to “unexploded bombs” has an additional meaning.


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