The court of Minsk, the Belarus capital, started a sensational case, which is at the same time extremely horrifying: several people charged with selling radioactive uranium rods, which highly likely came from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
The newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya (Soviet Belarus) reported yesterday that the investigation department of the National Security Committee (KGB) for Minsk and the Minsk region investigated crimes committed by an international criminal group. The investigation revealed that a group of criminals attempted to sell about 1.5 kilograms of uranium dioxide 235 and 238 in Belarus at the beginning of the year. Numerous tests on the uranium dioxide failed to determine its origin, because the identification numbers had been removed from the uranium rods. However, the invesitgation revealed that the radioactive metal originates from Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear plant, to be precise.
There are five people charged with this dangerous crime: one Ukrainian, Veselovsky, and four Belorussians, Kurdesov, Bankalyuk, Volchenko, and Gurinovich. It is because of the involvement of the Ukrainian, Veselovsky, that the uranium is said to originate from the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The investigation discovered that Veselovsky came to Chernobyl in 1987 and was appointed the chief foreman in the reactor shop where radioactive elements were processed. Before the appointment, he worked at a nuclear power plant in Russia. Therefore, it is evidently he who had access to the uranium. In addtion, zirconium tubes with uranium dioxide, similar to that brought to Belarus in 2002, was stolen from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1993. A criminal investigation was opened, but no results were achieved. The investigation failed to determine who was involved in the theft. It is astonishing that the same Veselovsky was a key witness in that case.
Th Ukrainian origin of the uranium is also confirmed by the fact that the dangerous substance was brought to Belarus in a train Chernigov (Ukraine)– Iolcha (Belarus) through the railway checkpoint of Novaya Iolcha, where border security is weak. In other words, there is much evidence of the Ukrainian origin of the uranium, and it is highly likely that Veselovsky is connected with the theft in 1993. It is quite natural that the man decided to wait for some time for the scandalous theft to be forgotten, and then he decided to sell the stolen uranium. Veselovsky denies the charges and says it was Kurdesov who obtained the uranium. The latter lays the blame on Veselovsky and says it was he who had stolen the tubes. The investigation still failed to unravel the closed circle.
The Belarus Internet site, www.sb.by, reported details of the unique case. According to the conclusion of the investigation, Kurdesov lived in Ukraine for many years and then moved to Mogilev (Belarus). At the end of 2001, he told an acquaintance of his, a supplier at the Minsk bearing plant, Bankalyuk, that he was looking for a client to sell a batch of uranium. Bankalyuk agreed to help him, and soon established contact with Gurinovich, who in his turn found Volchenko. In addition, a criminal case was initiated against Gurinovich in Belarus in January 2002 for an attempt to sell precious stones.
The KGB learnt about some people wishing to sell uranium at the end of 2001. The committee decided to place its officer into the criminal group as a potential client. However, Volchenko and Co. checked the man and his contacts several times before they agreed to have dealings with him. The KGB officer performed his role wonderfully: he asked the criminals to sell him only one rod at first to examine the quality of the uranium.
Kurdesov brought a piece of uranium tube to Minsk on December 28, 2001 and delivered it to Bankalyuk. The latter handed the rod over to Gurinovich, who in his turn contacted Volchenko and arranged a meeting. It was Volchenko who was the last link in the criminal chain and who met with the “client." The KGB paid 10,000 USD for the purchase, but it was worth it. An test on the rod determined that the criminals actually offered uranium dioxide 235 and 238 for sale. It was decided to conclude the operation and seize the whole batch.
A special operation was held which resulted in all members of the criminal group being arrested; 5 zirconium tubes with uranium dioxide 290-300 mm long, one tube 50 mm long, and the 10,000 USD paid for the firse purchase were found during the operation.
It may be incorrect to label the people who participaged in this crime an organized criminal group, as each of them was just a link in a chain of people pursuing their own objectives. For instance, Kurdesov and Veselovsky offered the uranium tubes for 250,000 USD. At the same time, Volchenko planned to sell the same goods for approximately 800,000 USD. The criminals didn't realized what a high price the innocent population would have to pay if the dangerous transaction wasn’t prevented. It is not clear yet to what extent the sentence passed will affect the republic that has suffered so much from the Chernobyl tragedy.
Andrey Mikhailov PRAVDA.Ru Minsk
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/09/27/47652.html