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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Firearms Poorly Guarded

Security procedures at military firearms depots are inadequate, allowing criminals to steal weapons easily, an Interior Ministry official said Tuesday. Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Ogorodnikov, the head of the Interior Ministry Public Order Department, said "the guarding of firearms depots is in extremely unsatisfactory condition. "Firearms are very often heaped up in the depots and no one knows the exact number of these weapons," Ogorodnikov told a press conference. "Certainly, such depots attract the attention of criminals." Ogorodnikov was more reassuring on protection of nuclear weapons at military bases from criminals. In answer to a question, he said the country had not suffered any thefts of nuclear weapons nor had there been any attempts at such thefts by organized crime groups. Fears have been expressed in the West over the potential for such thefts in the former Soviet Union. "Nuclear warheads are guarded in this country by our special units and it is practically impossible to penetrate through this guard," Ogorodnikov said. He said there were 26,000 firearms depots in Russia and after a thorough inspection police had closed 840 of them because they lacked appropriate controls. He said about 150,000 are possessed illegally in the country. According to police, 16,540 firearms were stolen from depots in 1993, compared with 275 in 1989. As a result, the number of crimes involving firearms has increased fivefold over the last three years, reaching 22,500 cases in 1993. Ogorodnikov said two main Russian firearms-production plants, Tulsky and Izhevsky, had begun to sell their weapons to cooperative enterprises which often resell the equipment to mafia gangs. "Mafia gangs openly circle around the firearms-producing plants," he said, adding that police last year had detained 10 crime groups operating around the Tulsky plant. He said the groups carried out thefts of firearms parts and then assembled weapons to sell. Colonel Yevgeny Scherbinsky, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry Investigation Committee, said the Criminal Code should be changed to provide a minimum 10-year sentence for illegal possession and sale of arms.