At the Ukrainian border with Moldova known as Kurgan – Pervomaysk, authorities have recently installed gates that measure radioactivity combined with the use of hand dosimeters in order to detect radioactive material entering or leaving Ukraine. Recently, these new measures led to the detection of radioactive money being brought into Ukraine from Transnistria, the separatist controlled territory that broke away from Moldova during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, the alarm was raised at the first dosimetric gate when the Transnistrian man’s car, a Ford Transit van, drove through and registered radiation levels that exceeded 600 times the normal reading. The car was stopped and hand dosimetres were used to detect the source of the radioactive reading, leading authorities to a money bag owned by one of the passengers.
Inside was a stash of money that had somehow been contaminated with iodine-131. This is a radioactive isotope commonly used in hyperthyroid therapy. The half-life of iodine-131 is usually 8 days. For safety reasons, the money was seized and the vehicle was subsequently isolated. This led to the parking lot at the Ukrainian border subsequently being isolated and surrounded by radioactive warning signs.
Radioactive Materials and Transnistria
The history of radioactive materials leaving Transnistria dates back to the mid-1990s. In 1991 as the USSR began to fall apart, Moldova became an independent country. However, the Moldovan territory on the left bank of the river Dniester was populated by a large Russian-speaking community who had no intention of being assimilated into a linguistically and culturally Romanian country which horrifically oppressed and murdered ethnic Russians in the area during WW2.
Transnistria soon declared independence which subsequently led to war breaking out between the newly formed separatist state and Moldova. The conflict raged for around half a year, killing 1,500 people and displacing even more. During the war, the Transnistrian separatists attacked Moldavian forces even with Alazani anti-hail missiles. According to the Linx Project, To increase their odds of victory, it’s alleged that the missiles were modified with radioactive materials.
“According to locals, The warheads don’t seem to exist but in 2005 journalists with the Sunday Times negotiated the purchase of three such rockets. The man journalists negotiated with was named Dmitrii and each device cost 200.000 US dollars. The affair was not concluded though.”– The Linx Report
Following the war in Transnistria, it’s said that the missiles were hidden in a disused mine that stretches for 250 hectares. The alleged presence of such missiles and the possibility of them being smuggled out of the breakaway state has been a concern for international security for many years.
However, due to Transnistria being an inherently closed off and secretive state, no substantial proof has ever been found. But one thing is confirmed, cancer rates around the alleged hiding place of the missiles are alarmingly high with one in four people dying of cancer in 2016. Leading to a second cemetery having to be built in the area.