TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) — Georgian special services have foiled an attempt by a Russian citizen to sell weapons-grade uranium for $1 million in the Georgian capital, a senior Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.
The official said Oleg Khintsagov, a resident of Russia’s North Ossetia region, was arrested in early 2006 and a closed court soon after convicted him to 8 1/2 years in prison.
Khintsagov was detained as he tried to sell uranium-235 to an undercover Georgian agent posing as a member of a radical Islamic group, said Shota Utiashvili, who heads the ministry’s information and analytical department.
“He was demanding $1 million for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of enriched weapons-grade uranium,” Utiashvili said. “This sort of uranium could be used to make a nuclear bomb but 100 grams is not enough.”
Before being arrested, Khintsagov told agents he had another 2–3 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium in Vladikavkaz, Utiashvili said. After his arrest he refused to cooperate with the investigation.
It was unclear where the uranium came from. The safety of Russia’s vast stocks of nuclear weapons has concerned world leaders since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia says its nuclear facilities are well guarded. A spokesman for Russia’s atomic energy agency had no immediate comment on the Georgian case.
For more information on nuclear containment and our insufficient effort to prevent proliferation, see Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: a Progress Update.