A chemical factory explosion killed three people but did not involve fuel for a new long-range nuclear missile, as the Pentagon claimed, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.
Gennady I. Gerasimov said in a telephone interview that the explosion occurred at 7:15 a.m. on May 12 at a chemical factory in Pavlograd, about 500 miles southwest of Moscow in the Ukraine.Three people at the plant were killed and five were hospitalized with injuries from the explosion, which occurred in a storage area for industrial explosives, Gerasimov said.
Soviet media carried no reports about the explosion.
U.S. officials in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday the explosion shut down the only plant in the Soviet Union that makes the main rocket motors for the new SS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile.
The Defense Department said in a statement Tuesday that the explosion "destroyed several buildings at a Soviet propellant plant in Pavlograd."
Gerasimov said propellant was not involved in the explosion, but he said he did not know whether the plant produced rocket fuel.
Pavlograd, with a population of 122,000, is about 30 miles east of the major industrial city of Dnepropetrovsk. Gerasimov said no evacuation of the area's residents was ordered after the explosion.
The Pentagon said of the explosion, "Apparently, this will delay Soviet solid-propellant missile programs."
But Gerasimov said the explosion did not cause major damage. "It's not catastrophic," he said.
The SS-24 is a large 10-warhead weapon that can be launched from either underground silos or rail cars. The Soviets began deploying it just last year on rail cars. Fewer than a dozen are thought to have been made operational to date.