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Russia to Stage Nuclear Security Exercise - 2004-07-12

Russia has announced a major test of security at its nuclear facilities. The Russian defense minister, on a visit to London, says NATO will be invited to send observers.

The issue of security at Russia's nuclear facilities came up at a joint news conference by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his British counterpart, Geoff Hoon. Mr. Ivanov said Russia will test its nuclear safety systems next month. "This August, we are going to host, on Russian territory, a large-scale exercise for ensuring safety and security of nuclear facilities, including military nuclear facilities, and we have already extended some invitations for observers and monitors to attend this particular exercise, NATO included, and Great Britain among others," he said.

Mr. Ivanov said the exercise should silence critics who question whether the Russian military's nuclear installations are safe from terrorists. "We give our closest and most immediate attention to the issues of counter-terrorist defenses and protection for nuclear facilities. We are ready to show graphically that the widely circulated myths to the fact that Russia has problems in this sphere are just mythical," he said.

On another matter, Mr. Ivanov was asked about reports that Georgia plans to destroy 160 Russian missiles seized from Russian troops last week in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. "That's a complete surprise to me. That was actually part of the equipment for the Russian peacekeeper helicopter crew down there. There's nothing to comment upon this. The Russian military equipment has been actually sanctioned along the lines of the decision taken by all sides, and all of the equipment should be returned to Russia," he said.

Mr. Ivanov denied that Russian troops are assisting the South Ossetian separatists, and he said Russia had been invited by all sides in the conflict to send peacekeepers to the region.