PIR Center just published a very interesting report (PDF, in Russian). It’s an account of the Avariya-2004 exercise, written by Vladimir Verkhovtsev, Deputy Chief of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. The idea of the exercise, which took place in August 2004, was to check procedures for dealing with incidents during transfer of nuclear weapons.

Of course, no actual nuclear weapons were used in the exercise. But their replicas were tortured in all imaginable ways – the trucks that transported the weapons were assaulted by terrorists, blown up, set on fire, and drowned in a small river. One of the weapons had its high explosive charge detonated (it’s called “rapid burn-up” in the report) leading to a release of radioactive materials. As if it was not enough, the train that was supposed to transport rescued weapons to a Rosatom facility was again attacked by terrorists at the station. Another part of the exercise included rescuing a weapon container from a truck drowned in a lake.

I’m wondering if NATO observers, who were there watching all this from up close, published an account of the exercise. It would be interesting to compare their impression with Verkhovtsev’s account.