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Viewing cable 09STATE39054, REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON THE ARREST OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09STATE39054 2009-04-20 17:05 2011-02-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Secretary of State
VZCZCXRO4401
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHC #9054/01 1101816
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201756Z APR 09
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV IMMEDIATE 9813
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA IMMEDIATE 4802
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAORC/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE 0730
RHMFISS/NRC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE 3753
RUETIAA/DIRNSA FT GEORGE G MEADE MD IMMEDIATE 2130
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE 6108
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 039054 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2019 
TAGS: ASEC KCRM KNNP MNUC PARM PINR UP XH
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON THE ARREST OF 
INDIVIDUALS ALLEGEDLY SELLING PLUTONIUM IN UKRAINE REF: A. REF: A) STATE SECURITY SERVICE OF UKRAINE PRESS RELEASE 4/14/09 B. B) STATE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMITTEE OF UKRAINE PRESS RELEASE 4/15/09 C. C) 3 ARRESTED IN UKRAINE FOR TRYING TO SELL PLUTONIUM ASSOCIATED PRESS 3/14/09 D. D) STATE 030541 3/30/09 E. E) STATE SECURITY SERVICE OF UKRAINE (SBU) PRESS CONFERENCE/CHANNEL ONE TV RUSSIAN NEWSCAST 4/16/09 F. F) UKRAINE SAYS 3 TRIED TO SELL BOMB MATERIAL NEW YORK TIMES G. 4/14/09 Classified By: ISN/WMDT DIRECTOR, ACTING, THOMAS LOWE

1. (U) This is an action request for Embassy Kyiv. Please see paragraph

3. 
2. (C) BACKGROUND: There are several differing reports regarding the nature of material recently seized in Ukraine and other details surrounding the incident. For example, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) characterized the material as plutonium-239 in Ref E while later indicating it may be americium in Ref F. According to Ref A, on April 9, 2009, the SBU detained three Ukrainian citizens during a special operation in Ternopil Oblast. The SBU spokesman claimed that individuals were trying to sell a container with radioactive material that can be used by terrorists for making a "dirty bomb". The suspects, two private entrepreneurs and a member of the Parliament of the Oblast Council, planned to sell the container for $10 million, "as they were sure that it contained 3.672 kg of Plutonium-239." According to open source reporting, SBU's preliminary investigation revealed that the container was produced at a Russian facility during Soviet times and could have been transported to Ukraine from one of the neighboring countries. A criminal case has been opened by the Ternopil Oblast Prosecutor's Office in accordance with Part 3 Article 265 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and the material has been submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine for investigation. However, Ref B described the seizure as the result of a "vehicle search" with no mention of an investigation or operation being conducted, and Ref C reported that the seized material was americium-241 rather than plutonium-239. (For Post's background, plutonium-239 is almost always accompanied by small amounts of other plutonium isotopes, including plutonium-241 -- which decays into americium-241 -- so we cannot rule out that the seized container may include some of both substances. Both Ref A and B indicated that the material was moved to the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine for detailed analysis by the State Enterprise Radon. All reporting stated that the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine and the IAEA were informed about the incident. Please note that USG technical expertise and forensic analysis is available if requested by the GOU.

3.(SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Washington requests a coordinated response from the country team to the questions in para 4 to clarify information gaps. Post is requested to provide a response to Washington via front-channel cable outlined in Ref D or via whatever means of official reporting the country team deems appropriate. The most pressing issue is whether the material seized is plutonium-239, i.e., is it suited for use in a nuclear explosive. Post is requested to congratulate the Government of Ukraine for making the arrest and express interest in further information from the GOU regarding the status of the investigation, the results of further analysis performed on the material, and developments in the criminal case opened.

4. (SBU) FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS ABOUT SEIZED MATERIAL:

-- What was the basis for identifying the material as plutonium? How did Ukrainian authorities determine the seized material was of Soviet-era Russian origin? Does Ukraine intend to contact Russian authorities in order to STATE 00039054 002 OF 002 share information on the seized material? What equipment was used to identify the material as emitting radiation exceeding 250 times the natural background levels, as stated in Ref A? If it was already measured or could be done safely, what is the radiation dose rate coming from the material when not in its container? Please state the distance between the material and detector when these are measured and provide a detailed description of the container, including what it's made of, its thickness, and the shape of the material within it. Please explain the relationship between the container photographed on the SBU's website and the black container displayed on the April 16 newscast of Russia's Channel One TV (Ref E).

-- Why did Ukrainian nuclear physicists and other scientists identify the container as a Soviet-era plutonium transport vessel? What information did they have which supports this assessment?

-- Why does the SBU believe the container came from Tomsk, as opposed to other locations?

-- If possible, please provide us with the analytical techniques and instrumentation that was used to determine the physical attributes and chemical, elemental, and isotopic compositions of the material, including the Pu-240/Pu-239 ratio, as well as relative amounts of Pu-241 and Am-241. Please also provide detection limits and uncertainties in the data.

-- Is there any additional information regarding the individuals arrested, the potential end-users, or origin of the material (e.g., birthdates, passport numbers, phone numbers, markings on the containers)? Is additional radioactive material available? Where did the suspects obtain the material, why did they believe it was plutonium, and how much did they pay for it? How did the material enter the country? Why was that route/border crossing chosen? Was anything done to shield the source from detection?

-- Was the material seized serendipitously or was it the result of an investigation by the SBU? If the latter, what prompted the investigation and when did it begin?

-- When and where will the material be analyzed and who will have access to the results?

-- Is the SBU currently investigating any other stolen radioactive materials cases? Do any of these cases have ties to the U.S.? Is the SBU willing to cooperate on investigations?

5.Washington appreciates Post's assistance. CLINTON