Murphy's Law: September 4, 2002


On 28 August, Russian anti-organized crime officers, Moscow police and Federal Security Service agents discovered a T-72 main battle tank, three MTLB armored personnel carriers and two Smerch multiple launch rocket systems in a Moscow suburb. These vehicles were found unguarded in hangars belonging to the Konversiya Science and Production Center closed joint-stock company.

Several days before, anti-organized crime detectives had learned that an unnamed criminal group with a terrorist bent was actively seeking ammunition, trying to make contact with people who could sell them weapons and armored vehicles. While searching for the criminals' possible partners, the detectives visited the Konversiya Science and Production Center, where they discovered the tank covered with camouflage netting, two Smerch multiple rocket launchers, four tracked prime movers and also more than 70 pieces of rocket and artillery ammunition. Some were stored in a hangar, while the rest were left outside.

The police officers claimed that all of the hardware was battleworthy and in fine condition; no external damage was noticeable. While the tank's main gun was mothballed, a specialist would need only 30 minutes to prepare it for battle. Two of the four tracked prime movers could be equipped with machine guns. Some of the ammunition was fit for combat operations while the rest were only dummy rounds.

Employees of the firm explained that repairs were being carried out on the order of the Defense Ministry, but were unable to present any related documents. Moreover, these orders are carried out at specialized enterprises. The GUBOP staffers spent nearly a day at the Science and Production Center, trying to find out whether Konversiya's workers had the right to store tanks and rocket launchers on their premises. 

The Defense Ministry denied law enforcement claims on the 30th and while noting that that Konversia was working for the Defense Ministry within the boundaries of existing contracts, they admitted that improvements should probably be made to the security systems of the equipment under repair. The Defense Ministry's automobile and tank department head general Nikolai Kovalyov told Interfax that the vehicles found at Konversia will remain there for repairs. The tank's firearm control system had been removed and there was no ammunition, two of the MTLB were "dummies" and a third one a medical vehicle. 

CG Nikolai Sertilov, head of the Defense Ministry's Rocket and Artillery Department, said that the two Smerch multiple launch rocket systems were undergoing repairs and tests at Konversia. They would subsequently be returned to the department's testing ground and "not a single charge for these systems can be found within a 500 kilometer radius from Moscow".

This is not the first time that large weapons have been discovered near Russia's capital. Four aircraft cannons and a Shkas machine gun were confiscated from businessmen in Sergiyevo-Posadskiy Rayon back in March. - Adam Geibel


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