Few days ago, former prime minister of Armenia, Hrant Bagratyan, declared officially that Armenia owns nuclear weapons.[i] This declaration cannot be interpreted as any ordinary innocent statement, but a component of state policy that threats international security. But unfortunately the world community stayed only observer to this statement and asked no explanation from Armenia, except Azerbaijan. Spokesman of MFA of Azerbaijan in his interview to the press declared that his country will ask to the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct necessary investigation on Armenian nuclear weapon issue.[ii]
So, it seems to be useful to analyze international commitments of Armenia to find which international rules this country exactly violated.
Commitments at the international level
In 1993, Armenia joined the International Atomic Energy Agency. As a country using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Armenia had to recognize the central role that the International Atomic Energy Agency should play in nuclear non-proliferation, and the Armenian side had to work very closely with the Agency. Until now, Armenia signed several international treaties, as mentioned above:
– “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”[iii] – ratified by Armenia in 1993;
– “Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material”[iv] – entered into force on September 23, 1993. On March 18 2013 Armenia ratified 2005 Amendment to the this Convention;
– “The Agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement in connection with Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” was signed on September 23, 1993, and entered into force on May 5, 1994[v];
– “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction[vi]” – entered into force on June 7, 1994;
– “Protocol Additional to the Agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards in connection with Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”[vii] was signed on September 29, 1997 and entered into force on June 28, 2004;
– “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction”[viii] entered into force on April 29, 1997;
– Convention on Nuclear Safety[ix] – entered into force on December 20, 1998;
– International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings[x] – entered into force on April 15, 2004;
– Hague Code of Conduct[xi] – signed in 2004;
– Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty[xii] – entered into force On July 12, 2006;
– International Health Regulations[xiii] – entered into force on June 15, 2007.
– International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism[xiv] – entered into force on October 22, 2010;
– The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management[xv] – entered into force on August 20, 2013;
At the same time, member of The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism[xvi] and regularly participating state to the Nuclear Security Summits[xvii], Armenia also officially applied for membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement[xviii] in 2012.
Legislation at the national level
On March 4, 2014, The Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations sent a letter to the Secretariat of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to the Resolution 1540, with regard to its implementation.[xix] So, we can enumerate following internal measures taken by Armenia on nuclear issue, according to the mentioned letter:
– In 1993, by the Government Decree No. 573, Department of State Control for Nuclear and Radioactive Security of the use of Atomic Energy has been established as the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority.
– The Government Decree No. 1231 from 11 September 2003 approves the Concept for strengthening of physical protection and securing of Armenian Nuclear Plant and Nuclear Materials as well as regulations for physical protection of Nuclear Facilities and Nuclear Materials.
– According to the Decree No 553 from 3 May 2007, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, National Security Service, The Police, Ministry of Finance, the State Nuclear Safety Regulatory Committee and the Ministry of Emergency Situations were the main agencies responsible for detecting and responding to materials out of regulatory control.
– In 2009, the President signed into law the amendments to the following existing legal acts – Law on licensing, Law on Arms, Law on State duties. Corresponding amendments were made also to the Criminal Code. In May 15, 2010 the “Law on Controlling Export of dual-use Commodities, their transit through the territory of Armenia, as well as transfer of dual-use information and products of intellectual activity” entered into force.
– The Government Decree No. 1308 from 9 November 2009 approves the munitions list, their import, export, transfer and licensing procedure. According to the Decree the Licensing authority for the Import and Export of Military goods (munitions list) is the Ministry of Defense. For each and every transaction additional permission is required. The position of Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a prerequisite. The list is regularly being updated according to the Wassenaar Arrangement’s list through relevant amendments to the Government Decree No. 1308 from 9 November 2009. Hereby are these amendments: No. 724-N oflO June 2010 No. 1157-N of 11 August 2011 No.862-N of 04 July 2012 No. 438-N of 25 April 2013.
– According to the Government Decree No. 924-N from 1 July 2010 the Ministry of Economy is the authorized agency exercising control of export of Dual-use commodities, their transit through the territory of the Republic of Armenia, as well as transfer of dual-use information and products of intellectual activity.
– By the Government Decree No 482-N from 21 April 2011 the Integrated Border Safety Management Program has been adopted for the period of 2011-2015. According to the Government Decree No 1418-N from 20 October 2011 Bagratashen and Zvartnots border crossing check-points have been assigned the central role for provision of capacities to deter chemical, biological and radiological threats, according to the requirements of the International health regulations.
– The Government Decree No. 1785 from 15 December 2011 defines the list of dual-use commodities being exported, transferred through the territory of the Republic of Armenia, as well as the list of dual-use information and products of intellectual activities. The list has been updated by Government Decree No. 438-N from 25 April 2013 (Amendment to the Government Decree No. 1785).
– Correspondingly, by another Government decree No 777-N from June 2, 2012 the action plan in case of emergency situations, as well as international health regulations were established on the State border crossing points.
– Government Decree N 985-A from 13 September 2013 appoints the National Security Service and the State Nuclear Safety Regulatory Committee as the authorized Agencies for fulfillment of commitments set in 2005 Amendments to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
– On September 30, 2013 several amendments have been made to the “Law on the Safe Utilization of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes” of 25 March 1999. The Law regulates issues on state accounting and control of nuclear materials, as well as reports and information submitted to the IAEA.
Armenians’ engagement in smuggling of radioactive materials
Bu what is the reality? Reality is that Armenia violates all its international commitments and internal legislation for nuclear security. To sign an international agreement, to be member of an international organization, to take internal measures are only formal for this country. We have several evidences proving Armenians’ engagement in smuggling of radioactive materials:
– On 22 May 1999, two Armenians tried to sell 20kg of U-235 enriched uranium in the Ukrainian town of Beregovo but were detained by this country’s law enforcement forces.[xx] Armenians had demanded 35,000 dollars for 1kg uranium.
– On September 2000, three persons were arrested at Tbilisi airport for attempting to sell a small quantity of mixed powder containing about 0.0004 kg of Pu and 0.00008 kg of LEU.[xxi] According to press reports, an official in the Georgian Ministry of State Security said that two individuals arrested were Georgians citizens, and the third was from Armenia. The individuals said they had brought the Uranium and Pu from the Russian Federation and Ukraine to sell it.
– During a reconnaissance operation in Georgia’s Samskhe-Javakheti region on 19 December 2001, 300g of low-enriched uranium was seized.[xxii] Investigation made it clear that the material had been brought from Armenia.
– On 26 June 2003, Armenian citizens tried to smuggle 170g of highly enriched uranium U-235 through the border between Armenia and Georgia (Sadakhli-Bagratashen checkpoint).[xxiii] 170g of uranium was seized from the detained Armenia citizen, Garik Dadadyan seized. Dadadyan was transferred to Armenia, where criminal proceedings were instituted against him. He was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of only two years and a half. This fact indicates that government authorities defend Armenians smuggling radioactive materials.
– At the Mehri checkpoint on the Armenian-Iranian border on 23 December 2003, a container with radioactive Strontsium-90 brought from Metsamor Nulcear Power Plant was detained.[xxiv] Spectral analysis revealed that the object was highly radioactive.
– On the Armenian-Georgian border (Sadakhli-Bagratashen checkpoint) on 13 March 2004, Armenian citizen was detained for possessing radioactive materials.[xxv] However, the incident has not been made public.
– On the Georgian-Turkish border (Sarpi checkpoint) on 24 October 2007, 2.04g of Lawrence-103 was discovered in a special golden container.[xxvi] As a result, four Armenian citizens were detained.
– On the Armenian-Georgian border (Sadakhli-Bagratashen checkpoint) on 26-28 August 2009, traces of the substance cesium-137 were detected in a car owned by a resident of the Noratus village of Armenia’s Gerarkunik region.[xxvii] However, the substance itself was not found, so the passenger was released and returned to Armenia.
– In Tbilisi, in March 2010, businessman Smbat Tonoyan and a member of the Yerevan Institute of Physics, Hrant Ohanyan, were detained on suspicion of illegal sale of radioactive materials.[xxviii] 18g of uranium enriched up to 89 percent was seized from them. During their trial in Tbilisi, it became clear that Tonoyan initially required of a potential buyer $8 million in exchange for 120g of enriched uranium but lowered the price to $1.5 million. He was supposed to show the buyer 18g of product as a sample. Tonoyan had received the confiscated uranium from Armenian citizen Garik Dadayan who had been arrested for uranium smuggling in Georgia in 2003. After serving a light punishment for the smuggling of radioactive materials in 2003, he continued to engage in this activity.
– On 16 September 2010, a criminal group, one of whose members was an Armenian, was arrested at the Tbilisi airport. 0.0004kg of plutonium and 0.00008kg of low-enriched uranium was found and seized from the detainees. Investigation revealed that the criminals were planning to sell the radioactive materials.[xxix]
– At the border between Armenia and Georgia (Sadakhli-Bagratashen checkpoint) in August 2014, Georgian customs officials arrested two Armenians for trying to smuggle radioactive material Sezyum-137 into Georgia.[xxx]
– In April 2016, Georgia’s State Security Service arrested three Armenian and three Georgia citizens for trying to sell 200g of Uran-238.[xxxi] It became clear that the three Armenian citizens used to work at Metsamor. The group planned to sell radioactive materials in the Middle East.
Anyway, Metsamor itself is a great threat for this region. The Metsamor nuclear power plant built in 1970, was closed after the devastating earthquake in Spitak in 1988. But despite the international protests, the power plant’s operation was resumed in 1995. Moreover, the second reactor was launched there. According to the ecologists and scholars all over the region, seismic activity of this area turns operation of the Metsamor nuclear power plant in an extremely dangerous enterprise, even if a new type of reactor is built. Azerbaijan has repeatedly brought to the IAEA’s attention that the Metsamor nuclear power plant poses a threat to the region. One of the biggest problems for Azerbaijan is that Armenia may spray the radioactive waste of the Metsamor nuclear power plant in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
At the end of my article, I would like to draw the attention of the readers to the fact that the world community was mobilized to combat Iraq, accused for nuclear threat (Iraq was completely destroyed but no evidence found). Nevertheless, all those evidences show clearly how Armeni, the only terrorist state in the world, having nuclear weapon and engaged in smuggling of radioactive materials, threats the international security. Being member of famous international organizations as UN, OSCE, COE and others, Armenia violated all its international commitments by occupying 20 % of its neighbor Azerbaijani territories. Armenia has today territorial claiming against 2 more neighbors like Turkey and Georgia. So, it is not difficult to understand how it is dangerous for the international security to live together with this rogue state having nuclear weapons. So, it is time to react immediately to protect all humanity against this rogue state governed by Sargsyan’s criminal and terrorist team which knows no rules…
Dr. Turab GURBANOV
[xx] IAEA Daily Press Review, May 28, 1999.
[xxii] The Nonproliferation Review, Monterey, CA.; Fall-Winter 2002.