MOSCOW, April 4 (UPI) -- On April 3 the Russian journal Novaia Gazeta reported that 250 nuclear warheads with a total yield of 20 megatons were not returned by Ukraine to Russia.
Novaia Gazeta suggested the warheads could have been sold to a third country, possibly Iran.
The 200-kiloton warheads were due to be returned to Russia in 1992 after Ukraine declared itself a nuclear-free zone following a payment by Moscow to Kiev of approximately $500 million. The missing warheads were inventoried on papers Ukraine submitted to Moscow that were officially accepted by Russia.
Besides reimbursement, Ukraine was to receive uranium for its reactors from Russia's AES as part of the deal.
Sergey Sinchenko, a member of a parliamentary commission investigating illegal arms trafficking, revealed the discrepancies. According to Sinchenko, the nuclear warheads could remain combat-ready up to at least 2010.
Ukraine's ForUm news agency reported on April 3 that Russian General Staff Chief and Deputy Defense Minister General Yuri Baluyevsky said, "Russia's General Staff has no information about whether Ukraine has given 250 nuclear warheads to Iran or not. I do not comment on unsubstantiated reports."