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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: Nuclear Weapon Used in War Games

The Soviet military exploded a nuclear weapon during war games near a populated area in 1954, according to a report in the newspaper Rossiiskiye Vesti.


The explosion, if verified, would constitute the only reported use of nuclear weapons while two sides pretended to wage war.


"If it is substantiated, then yes, it would be the first of its kind", a military expert in the British Embassy said Wednesday. "There is certainly no precedent for the West using a nuclear weapon in their war games".


Of 44, 000 soldiers who participated in the military exercise, only 1, 000 are still alive, the newspaper said - an unusually low survival rate for a group of men that would presumably now be in their late 50s. It said that top leaders of the Soviet government, including the World War II hero Georgy Zhukov and Defense Minister Nikolai Bulganin, watched the exercise from a distance of 15 kilometers.


Soldiers evacuated villagers living just a few kilometers from the epicenter of the blast before the September 1954 exercise, but allowed them to return shortly after the explosion.


"They went house to house and warned that we should collect some things and await evacuation", a local resident identified as N. Bochkareva said.


The soldiers were divided into two teams, and one took the offensive and used a nuclear bomb, the report said.


The explosion in Russia's Orenberg region, in the southern Urals, brought a 50 percent increase in cancer levels over the subsequent five years, the newspaper wrote.


Dmitry Volkogonov, a senior military adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, said in the report that he had seen a classified Defense Ministry film on the event.


The blast came five years after the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic device, and just a year after President Dwight Eisenhower had threatened to use battlefield nuclear weapons to end the Korean War.


Historians say that Nikita Khrushchev, who had ultimate say over the Soviet nuclear testing program in 1954, feared the power of nuclear weapons yet felt they were necessary to deter Western attack.


According to a historical account, Khrushchev said: When I "learned all the facts about nuclear power, I could not sleep for several days. Then I became convinced we could never use these weapons, and when I realized that, I was able to sleep again".