Nuclear weapons experts picture moving with the shadowy 12th Main Directorate forces, who support and support Russia's atomic arsenal.
Most of the satellite has ne'er heard of the 12th Main Directorate, but they are the secretive forces that Vladimir Putin invokes each clip helium threatens to deploy atomic weapons.
They support and support Russia's atomic arsenal, keeping custody of a limb until the infinitesimal it takes off. Newsy sat down with apical atomic weapons experts who knew them.
Bill Moon is the erstwhile part main of planetary atomic information astatine the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
"Just gathering them the archetypal time, that was, you know, similar gathering a ghost. Someone who wasn't adjacent allowed to person their representation taken successful the erstwhile Soviet Union. Even wrong Russia, it was not permitted to utter the words '12th Main Directorate,'" said Moon.
Moon led atomic information efforts done the U.S. government's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. From 2003 to 2012 and with Russian information services watching, unit visited and secured Russia's astir delicate sites classified bases that held thousands of atomic warheads inherited aft the Soviet Union's collapse, which were susceptible to thieves and terrorists.
"Just getting determination was respective days' work. You're enactment successful a van with your squad for up to 3 hours. The van has the windows blocked out. You can't spot retired of it. You're going implicit precise bumpy roads," said Moon.
Putin permitted the visits but ended it each 10 years ago, wanting a much reciprocal arrangement. Those wrong the directorate haven't been allowed to talk with Americans ever since, adjacent though men Moon knew inactive enactment successful the unit.
Pavel Podvig, a elder researcher connected weapons of wide demolition astatine the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, said the directorate is compartmentalized.
"They had this nickname backmost successful the Soviet days of 'deaf and dumb,' due to the fact that they were not expected to archer anyone thing and to perceive anything. I personally knew immoderate of the erstwhile directors. These are precise responsible, precise nonrecreational people. They are not truly ideological. And actually, being successful the military, astir of them came from the Soviet military. They surely person a definite satellite view. But I deliberation the civilization successful the 12th Directorate is truly astir professionalism," said Podvig.
Although it's inactive secretive, contiguous the directorate has a Telegram channel. It makes nary notation of the warfare successful Ukraine oregon Putin's atomic threats. Podvig says agents lived and worked astatine the aforesaid tract for their full career, moving lone successful a occupation title. He identified 12 national-level retention sites and 35 base-level sites, immoderate of which precocious attracted U.S. surveillance, according to flight-tracking websites.
NEWSY'S SASHA INGBER: There are definite spy planes that person been flying implicit locations, Kaliningrad, for example. What's there?
BILL MOON: We ne'er went due to the fact that we declined to connection assistance to unafraid that site. So that's inactive surely a tract of precocious involvement successful the West.
Moon says Russian forces regularly determination atomic warheads for maintenance, which leaves unfastened the imaginable for misunderstanding, arsenic the westbound monitors whether immoderate actions lucifer Putin's atomic rhetoric.
This week, video shared connected societal media appeared to amusement the portion transporting instrumentality by rail, which Moon confirms. Some thought it was Putin sending a awesome oregon preparations for drills. Moon says it whitethorn amusement Russia taking trucks and weapons distant from the forces who defender atomic warhead shipments to alternatively limb troops warring the warfare successful Ukraine. Experts accidental a atomic onslaught determination would not assistance Russia's already degraded troops.
"The situation connected the battlefield would beryllium dramatically antithetic due to the fact that of the radioactive fallout and each that. And past the wide intent forces of the tanks, their artillery, they would person a overmuch much hard situation successful which to operate," said Podvig.
Putin can't conscionable property a button. Officials accidental helium has a concatenation of command, which would yet scope the caput of the 12th Main Directorate, Lt. Gen. Igor Kolesnikov.
INGBER: Would General Kolesnikov successful immoderate mode ever question an order?
MOON: I don't cognize him personally. I can't accidental so. The happening to retrieve astir the 12th Main Directorate is that they volition precise overmuch abstracted their ngo and their work from immoderate benignant of outlook oregon governmental sensibilities. It's each astir the mission.