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Russia: Computer Investigation Brings Cooperation

Washington, 20 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - A U.S. Commerce Department spokeswoman says Russia has offered its full cooperation in an investigation into the unauthorized sale of American super-computers to Russian nuclear weapons facilities.

The spokeswoman said the Bureau of Export Administration launched the investigation late last week after Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Kovalyov said four super-fast computers had been purchased for two Russian nuclear weapons facilities -- Chelyabinsk-70 and Arzamas-16.

Kovalyov suggested in the comment last Thursday that the computers were to be used for simulating nuclear explosions.

The spokeswoman says the bureau has not approved the export of high performance computers to the two Russian facilities and has no applications pending. While U.S. export restrictions have been largely removed since cold war days, there are still prohibitions on the sale of super-computers which can handle from two to seven billion calculations per second.

The United States did not name the company being investigated, but a California computer maker, Silicon Graphics, says it sold the four computers to the All-Scientific Research Institute for Technical Physics believing it to be simply a scientific institute. Company head Craig McCracken said they did not know that is the new name for Chelyabinsk-70 and didn't think they needed an export license.