Georgia: U.S. Official Comments on Uranium Smuggling Case

( Civil Georgia ) U.S. Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack confirmed on January 25 that nuclear materials seized in Georgia last year were analyzed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which confirmed that it was highly enriched uranium.  
 
Georgia said one Russian and three Georgian citizens are already serving prison terms in Georgia in connection with the smuggling of 100 grams of highly-enriched uranium from Russia via breakaway South Ossetia. The case goes back to January 2006, when Russian citizen Oleg Khintsagov and three of his Georgian accomplices were arrested by the Georgian police in Tbilisi. But news of the case was only released a year later.
 
Officials in Tbilisi say that information about the “highly sensitive case” was confidential for a year because they hoped to obtain more details, but it became impossible due to Russia's non-cooperation.
 
Speaking at a news briefing in Washington, Sean McCormack noted that the Unite States has “good cooperation” with the Russian government in terms of preventing nuclear terrorism and nuclear smuggling.
 
“I think it really is incumbent upon all states if they have information that might pertain to the smuggling of these kinds of extremely dangerous materials, that they should offer up that information. The forum and particular venue in which they do that I think is up to them. But I think as a bedrock principle that it is important that we do develop the kind of mechanisms and operating principles that encourage the sharing of this kind of information,” the U.S. official said.
Stressing that currently only a “small amount” of nuclear material was seized, Sean McCormack noted that there should be concern “that potentially individuals might have access to larger amounts.”   
 
“These are very dangerous materials and falling into the wrong hands can be put to use that would harm innocent civilian populations. We all have to be vigilant to make sure that there aren’t these sort of smuggling attempts with larger amounts. It could lead to real tragedy,” the U.S. official added.

Some analysts in Russia have already alleged that Georgia released the news about the uranium smuggling case year later just to gain upper hand in the current tensions with Russia.

But the Georgian Foreign Ministry stated on January 25 that it is not going to politicize the issue.

“Considering this criminal case as a danger to international security, the Georgian side is far from politicizing it or viewing it as any kind of state-sponsored activity,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.

Civil Georgia

2007.01.26