Russia denies US claims of 'stolen' nuclear weapons

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Moscow, Oct 31 (UNI) Russia today denied claims by the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that large amounts of Russian nuclear weapons had been stolen or misplaced in the early 1990s.

''Such allegations are entirely groundless,'' Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

''Despite all the difficulties that our country faced in the early 1990s, Russia maintained very high standards of ensuring the safety and physical protection of its nuclear arsenals,'' the statement added.

''In this respect, we would like to reiterate that in a joint statement on nuclear security signed by the Russian and US leaders in Bratislava in 2005, both sides acknowledged that the protection of nuclear facilities in both countries meets modern norms and requirements,'' it said.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Mr Gates had expressed concern that some Russian nuclear weapons from the former Soviet arsenal may not be fully accounted for.

''I have fairly high confidence that no strategic or modern tactical nuclear weapons have leaked beyond Russian borders,'' Mr Gates said.

''What worries me are the tens of thousands of old nuclear mines, nuclear artillery shells and so on, because the reality is the Russians themselves probably don't have any idea how many of those they have or, potentially, where they are,'' he added.

In his remarks, Mr Gates also supported the necessity of new talks with Moscow on further strategic arms reductions, which have been advocated by both current US presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

UNI XC GL RAI2017

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