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Kazakhstan: 18 Accused Of Stealing Radioactive Metals

Almaty, 4 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Kazakh authorities have put 18 people on trial this week on charges of having stolen radioactive metals from a factory where they were employed.

Our correspondents report the trial is being held in Oskemen City in eastern Kazakhstan. The 15 men and three women are former workers at the Ulba Metallurgic factory, which produces fuel for nuclear power stations. The indictment runs 200 pages.

Earlier this year, three of the accused were arrested after allegedly being caught with some 20 kilograms of radioactive metals and four kilograms of uranium tablets. They were apprehended after departing Oskemen City, reportedly on their way to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. The remaining 15 defendents were implicated in the resulting investigation.

In Soviet times, the Ulba Metallurgic factory was operated under the direction of the Soviet Atomic Energy Ministry. The former director of the plant, Vitali Mette, was appointed Vice Prime Minister of Kazakhstan in 1993. He was fired from that position earlier this year.