The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 15, 2013

Meteor explodes over Russia, nearly 1,000 injured

(Continued)

Others joked that the meteorite was par for the course for Chelyabinsk, an industrial town long held to be one of the world's most polluted areas. The area around Chelyabinsk is also home to nuclear and chemical weapons disposal facilities.

Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia noted that the area where the meteor exploded was 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility, which holds dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium. He said the Russian government has underestimated potential risks of the region.

A chemical weapons disposal facility at Shchuchye in the Chelyabinsk region contains some 6,000 tons (5,460 metric tons) of nerve agent including sarin and VX, accounting for about 14 percent of the chemical weapons that Russia is committed to destroy.

The dramatic events prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russians.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that "not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader noted for vehement statements, said "It's not meteors falling. It's the test of a new weapon by the Americans," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

"At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies" to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

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