Skip to comments.Russian Politician (Lebed) Dies in Plane Crash: Warned US Congress about Suitcase Nukes!
Posted on 04/29/2002 8:43:04 AM PDT by FresnoDA
The Mi-8 helicopter is said to have hit a power line in poor weather conditions at 0615 local time before crashing near Abakan, about 2,100 miles (3,400km) east of Moscow.
Lebed, elected governor of the huge Krasnoyarsk region in 1998 and once a prominent army general, was taken to a nearby hospital with severe injuries but later died.
At least five other people were killed in the crash.
He and other local officials were on their way to open a new ski centre in the district of Yermakovskoye.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences to Lebed's family.
A commission to investigate the crash, headed by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, has also been set up, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Lebed, 52, who came third in the Russian presidential election of 1996, was once considered a possible successor to President Boris Yeltsin.
He was widely credited with ending Russia's 1994-96 campaign in Chechnya, and was a popular figure with the Russian people.
He trained as a paratrooper before rising through the military ranks to become battalion commander during the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan from 1981-82.
He won plaudits for his action during the attempted August 1991 coup against then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, when he refused to deploy his troops against coup opponents.
After resigning in 1995 from the army he unsuccessfully ran for the Russian presidency.
However, following his election as governor to Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region, some had hoped he would run again, but he declined.
Russian Gen. Lebed Warned of Suitcase Nukes, Dies in Crash
Former top Russian security official Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, who warned the U.S. Congress five years ago that at least 80 suitcase-sized nukes from the old Soviet Union's weapons arsenal had gone missing, was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash.
At the time of his death, Lebed was governor of the huge Krasnoyarsk region of Russia, and was considered a key regional leader, the Associated Press said.
A national hero, Lebed was a battalion commander in 1981 during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, where he won top military honors. But his popularity went far beyond military circles, with a career that had earned him a national reputation as someone who was willing to confront the Russian establishment.
For the U.S., however, Lebed's most significant legacy may turn out to be the information he imparted to Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., during a 1997 fact-finding trip to Russia.
Weldon recounted Lebed's bombshell revelation during a March appearance on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes":
"This goes back to May of 1997 when I took one of my delegations to meet with General Lebed, who had just stepped down as Yeltsin's top security adviser.
"He was talking about the state of the Russian military and how generals and admirals were selling off technology they used to control because they felt betrayed by the motherland.
"It was then that he related a story to myself and six of my colleagues that he was assigned by Yeltsin to account for 132 small atomic demolition munitions. These are commonly referred to as suitcase nukes."
"He said, 'Congressman, I used all the leverage I have as the president's adviser. We could only locate 48.' Which meant that there were over 80 small atomic demolition devices with the capacity of one to 10 kilotons that they just could not locate.
"I came back and briefed the CIA and they said, 'Basically, we have no way of knowing [if that's true],'" Weldon recalled.
Russian officials subsequently denied Lebed's claim. But U.S. government officials remain concerned that rogue elements in the Mideast - terrorists Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein - may have gotten their hands on some of the missing Russian suitcase nukes.
In September, Rep. Chris Shays, R-Ct., chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, said "We don't really have a straight answer from our own government" on whether Lebed's report was accurate.
In 1992, former senior KGB intelligence officer Stanislav Lunev defected to the U.S. and revealed KGB plans to plant dozens of suitcase-sized nukes throughout the U.S. He documented his account in his 1992 book, "Through the Eyes of the Enemy."
Lunev is now a contributing writer for NewsMax.com.
In 1999, a second KGB intelligence officer, Vasili Mitrokhin, defected to Great Britain and corroborated many of Lunev's claims.
More than 12,000 Mi-8 (NATO codename Hip) multi-purpose helicopters have been produced with more than 2,800 exported and they are operational with over 50 air forces worldwide.
The helicopters are manufactured by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant JSC in Moscow and the Kazan Helicopter Plant JSC in Kazan and are available in civil and military versions. The military variants include the Mi-8T transport, VIP transport, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, Mi-8TV armed version and the search and rescue Mi-8MPS. Recent orders include 40 Mi-8TV helicopters for India to be fitted with Vikhr-M (AT-16) air-to-surface missiles, delivered by the end of 2001.
Are Suitcase Nukes on the Loose?
CH-53E "Super Stallion"
Photos by SSgt W. D. Crow.
Primary Function: Transport of heavy equipment and supplies during the ship-to-shore movement of an amphibious assault and during subsequent operations ashore.
Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft division of United Technologies, Inc., Stratford, Connecticut.
Length: 99 feet 1/2 inch
Height: 28 feet 4 inches
Rotor diameter: 79 feet
Max Cruise Speed: 161 miles per hour (150 knots). Max Speed: 184 miles per hour (170 knots).
Maximum takeoff weight: Internal load: 69,750 pounds; External load 73,500 pounds
Range: Without refueling: 540 miles; With aerial refueling: Indefinite
Armament: Two XM-218 .50 caliber machineguns
Introduction date: June 1981
Unit Replacement Cost: $36,000,000
Mission: The CH-53E is the heavy lift helicopter of the Marine Corps. The Super Stallion is compatible with most amphibious class ships and is carried routinely aboard LHA (Landing, Helicopter, Assault), LPH (Landing Platform, Helicopter) and LHD (Landing, Helicopter, Dock) type ships. The helicopter is capable of lifting 16 tons at sea level, transporting the load 50 nautical miles and returning. A typical load could be a 16,000 pound M198 Howitzer or a 26,000 pound Light Armored Vehicle. The aircraft can also retrieve downed aircraft including another CH-53E. The Super Stallion is equipped with an inflight refueling probe which gives the aircraft an indefinite range.
Features: The CH-53E is a follow-on for its predecessor, the CH-53D. Improvements include the addition of a third engine to give the aircraft the ability to lift the majority of the Fleet Marine Force's equipment, a dual point cargo hook system, improved main rotor blades, and composite tail rotor blades. A dual digital automatic flight control system and engine anti-ice system give the aircraft an all-weather capability. The helicopter seats 37 combat loaded Marines in its normal configuration and has provisions to carry 55 with centerline seats installed.
USMC Inventory: 160.
Other Users: United States Navy, MH-53E; Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces, MH-53J.
Background: The CH-53E has consistently proven its worth to the Fleet commanders with its versatility and range. With four and one half hours unrefueled endurance, the Super Stallion can move more equipment over rugged terrain, in bad weather and at night, than any other USMC aircraft. During Operation Eastern Exit, January, 1990, two CH-53E's launched from amphibious ships and flew 463 nautical miles (532.45 statute miles) at night, refueled twice enroute, to rescue American Embassy personnel in the civil-war torn capital of Mogadishu, Somalia. In June 1995, two Super Stallions rescued Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady in Bosnia.
Once is statistically invalid, but the once was a p.o.s. shaking towards midair disassembly.
I guess it wasn't that bad: it didn't crash that day. Two days later it tossed a main blade, all killed.
Has anyone come up with an answer to how much decay the deuterium, necessary to operate a small nuke, has occured in these old Soviet devices? I've heard that these things won't operate after 7 years or so, because the deuterium must be reprocessed to maintain its purity.
But then, what do I know. I'm a software guy.