Sergei Shoigu arrived together with Rosatom boss Aleksei Likahsev at the Severny helipad on the shores of the Matochkin Strait where Russia inside tunnels are conducting subcritical hydronuclear experiments with small fragments of weapon-grade plutonium. Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence

After blaming West for waging a proxy war on Russia, Shoigu went to Arctic nuclear test site

From the window of his helicopter, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu could study the entrances to tunnels where Rosatom is preparing and testing models of nuclear warheads and other weapons.
August 12, 2023


The Defense Ministry on Saturday posted photos from Shoigu’s Novaya Zemlya visit. 

What Sergei Shoigu was told is not detailed. The Ministry’s 12th Chief Directorate, responsible for safe-keeping, technical maintenance, transportation and delivery of nuclear warheads is some of Russia’s most secretive military structures.

So are Rosatom’s divisions working on plutonium production and testing. Shoigu traveled together with Rosatom General Director Alexei Likhachev.

Four helicopters flew the delegation north from Belushya Bay on the southern island of Novaya Zemlya to the Central Test Site’s settlement on the shores of the Matochkin Strait, the narrow waters between the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea separating the northern and southern islands of the archipelago.

From the military settlement of Severny, roads can be seen south in the valley to the different tunnel entrances. Image: Google Earth


The valley from Severny heading south is where subcritical testings take place today.

Last time real nuclear explosions took place here was nearly 33 years ago, on October 24, 1990. A total of 132 nuclear- and thermonuclear weapon tests are conducted at Novaya Zemlya since 1955, including the 1961 Tsar bomba, the world’s largest ever exploded. 


Before heading to Novaya Zemlya, the Russian Defense Minister held a meeting of the Collegium of his ministry at the National Defense Control Center.

In his opening speech, Shoigu paid special attention to Finland’s accession to NATO and Sweden’s future entry to the alliance.

Longer border with NATO 

“A serious destabilizing factor is the entry of Finland into NATO, and in the future, Sweden. After Helsinki joined the alliance, Russia’s land border with the bloc’s countries almost doubled,” Shoigu said according to the video recording from the meeting published by the Defense Ministry. 

Questions about joining NATO were almost not at all on the political agenda, neither in Helsinki nor Stockholm, before Russia on February 24, 2022, launched its all-out war on Ukraine. 

Shoigu continued: “On Finnish territory, it is likely that additional military contingents and NATO strike weapons will be deployed, capable of hitting critical targets in the north-west of Russia to a considerable depth.”

Finland joined NATO on April 4th of this year. 

Finnish Army soldiers at the Rovanjärvi training range in Lapland, not far from the border with the Kola Peninsula. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


“The collective West is waging a proxy war against Russia, providing unprecedented support to the puppet Kyiv regime,” Shoigu wrongfully claimed.

Russia’s response to Finland and Sweden’s entry to the North Atlantic Alliance was debated at the Collegium meeting. No details were provided, more than Shoigu saying grouping of troops along the western borders will be strengthened.

The Northern Fleet on Friday started a major command and staff exercise with currently some 20 warships in formation in the Barents Sea. 



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