WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Russia has upgraded a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad, across the Polish border, amid tensions with the West.
- New satellite images, published by The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on Monday, claimed to show a storage facility being excavated and covered.
- In 2016, it was reported that work on the bunker began while its roof was added later.
The Federation of American Scientists has shared images to the public showing what seems to be “an attempt to excavate and deepen the bunker, and also the addition of a new concrete roof,” The Independent reported.
“It has all the fingerprints of typical Russian nuclear weapons storage sites,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at FAS, said in a blog post, describing the photos.
“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing,” Kristensen wrote. “The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia.”
“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces. But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” he continued.
“It is to my knowledge the only nuclear weapons storage site in the Kaliningrad region,” the director added.
Kaliningrad is the capital of a Russian province with the same name. It is known for its Kaliningrad Arena which hosts football World Cup matches. Russia is currently holding its first ever edition of the FIFA World Cup with 32 national football teams participating.
Kristensen said that the group has been observing the site for quite some time, but noted that the satellite photos they published do not conclude that nuclear weapons have been moved to Kaliningrad.
“It’s a site we have been monitoring for quite some time and there have been and there have been some upgrades in the past but nothing as dramatic as this one. This is the first time we’ve seen one of the nuclear bunkers being excavated and apparently renovated,” he said.
“These pictures don’t prove that there are nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad now, but they do show it is an active site,” Kristensen explained.
The Russian military announced earlier this year that it was expanding infrastructure so that it can hold mobile Iskander-M missiles. Those weapons have a range of up to 500 miles and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
The United States has contended that under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, long range makes the missiles illegal.