07ASTANA447, KAZAKHSTAN: PARLIAMENTARIAN CLAIMS NUCLEAR DEVICE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA447 2007-02-21 03:00 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Astana

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTA #0447 0520300
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 210300Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8501
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 1376
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY 0010
RUEASWA/DTRA ALEX WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DTRA CT WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T ASTANA 000447 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN M'O.MARA, SCA/RA: A. CUMMINGS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2017 
TAGS: MNUC PREL PTER KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: PARLIAMENTARIAN CLAIMS NUCLEAR DEVICE 
"UNGUARDED" ON TEST RANGE 
 
 
Classified By: CDA Kevin Milas, reasons 1.4 (D) and (F). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  A Kazakhstani parliamentarian created a 
short-lived controversy by alleging that there was an 
unexploded nuclear device lying unguarded on the "Azgir" test 
range in western Kazakhstan.  The new Deputy Minister of 
Energy and Mineral Resources threw fuel on the fire when he 
confused Azgir with the Semipalatinsk test range and referred 
to trilateral efforts with Russia and the U.S.  The 
Kazakhstani government acted quickly to set the record 
straight, with both the Ministry of Energy and Mineral 
Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issuing 
statements refuting the allegation and reaffirming 
Kazakhstan's status as a nuclear-free state.  End summary. 
 
2. (U) On February 14 in the lower house of the Kazakhstani 
parliament, Mazhilis member Tokhtar Aubakirov alleged that 
there was an unexploded nuclear device at the Azgir test site 
in western Kazakhstan.  (Azgir is just north of the Caspian 
Sea, on the border with Russia.)  Aubakirov, who was a 
cosmonaut during Soviet times, reportedly said that he had 
seen the 6-meter diameter object from space. He claimed it 
was a "nuclear device, just sitting outside" unguarded. 
Aubakirov made his comments during a hearing on an agreement 
with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. 
 
3. (S) Channel 31 television reported that evening that in 
responding to Aubakirov's comments during the hearing, new 
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Almasdam 
Satkaliyev referred to the trilateral agreement with Russia 
and the U.S. and said that the "kolba" would be removed. 
(Note: Since there are no ongoing CTR programs at Azgir, it 
appears that Satkaliyev confused Azgir with Semipalatinsk in 
eastern Kazakhstan, where work is underway to remove material 
left over from the Soviet nuclear program.  End note.) 
 
4. (SBU) On February 15, Channel 31 ran another story on 
Aubakirov's allegations.  The reporter stated that the object 
Aubakirov referred to in Azgir was actually a 12-meter 
diameter metallic sphere which had formerly been used for the 
production of artificial diamonds.  Channel 31 ran a picture 
of a structure matching that description.  (Note: According 
to the NTI website, the Azgir test site houses "a laboratory 
for the synthesis of superstrong materials, which includes 
the Yava-1M installation for producing artificial diamonds." 
End note.)  Satkaliyev -- presumably under the gun to correct 
what he had said the previous day -- was shown saying "There 
is a trilateral agreement between Kazakhstan, Russia, and the 
U.S. regarding the discovery of nuclear objects and their 
removal from the territory of Kazakhstan.  There is no 
nuclear warhead in the abandoned installation ...  MP 
Aubakirov's suspicions that for more than 10 years 
Kazakhstanis and the international community were misled are 
unfounded." 
 
5. (U) The MFA also issued a statement on February 19 
refuting Aubakirov's assertions, reaffirming that Kazakhstan 
possesses no nuclear weapons, and denying the existence of 
any fissile material at the Azgir test site. 
 
6. (SBU) Other than the two reports on Channel 31, the 
Kazakhstani press has so far not focused on the issue.  Post 
declined Channel 31's request to comment, given that the U.S. 
has no role in Azgir and the GOK had already debunked 
Aubakirov's claims. 
 
7. (S) Comment:  It is not clear why MP Aubakirov chose to 
make such a wild allegation during the hearing, but he is 
known for his grandstanding.  It was unfortunate that 
Satkaliyev raised the trilateral agreement rather than simply 
refuting Aubakirov's allegations.  Satkaliyev was appointed 
Deputy Minister on January 24 and has obviously not yet 
mastered all aspects of his brief.  At this point it appears 
that the press has not picked up on his "kolba" slip and 
asked about trilateral programs underway in Semipalatinsk. 
Should that happen, post will seek guidance from Washington. 
End comment. 
MILAS

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