Dubious and less than legitimate web sites regularly publish stories claiming that Ukraine possesses hidden nuclear weapons. The latest version of this unsubstantiated and questionable narrative appeared in the US Veterans Today website, claiming that a nuclear weapon detonated during the March munitions depot fire that occurred in Balakliya, near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

Website screenshot www.veteranstoday.com

The Russian blogosphere immediately picked up this fake story and Russian sites such Infomaxx disseminated this fake story.

According to Veterans Today author Ian Greenhalgh (photographer and historian with a particular interest in military history and the real causes of conflicts) during the explosions at the munitions depot in Balakliya, at least one nuclear weapon was detonated. Greenhalgh says his claim is based on “real expertise in nuclear fission”, he uses emotionally charged words such as Holocaust, sabotage and mushroom cloud, and declares that something nuclear is definitely afoot and Ukraine is hiding it.

Greenhalgh uses video footage of the depot explosions to seemingly prove his claims, footage that is no longer available on the internet. His story also features a frame from the alleged video to claim that it shows “plasma rain falling from a mushroom cloud, a clear sigh this was a nuclear explosion”.

The photo is in fact a screenshot from a 2013 video of a fire at the Chapaevsk test site in Russia’s southeastern Samara province.

Greenhalgh uses other photographs to push his claim that Ukraine illegally possesses tactical nuclear SS-21 missiles. What he fails to mention is that SS-21s can carry conventional, chemical or nuclear warheads.  The missile photos Greenhalgh uses in his sensational story in no way prove that they contain nuclear warheads.

Ukraine has never hidden the fact that SS-21s are part of its arsenal, these missiles are clearly visible at Ukraine’s festive military parades. The warheads Ukraine uses are conventional.

In 1994 Ukraine gave up the world’s third largest nuclear weapons stockpile, joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and signed the Budapest Memorandum  guaranteeing its security.

Veterans Today is a marginal web site publishing a mixture of legitimate veterans issue stories but largely specializing in conspiracy theories and questionable journalism giving pride of place to stories questioning the September 11 terror attacks in the US, supporting Russia, Iran and undermining the U.S. The business review website Sitejabber calls Veterans Today an alarmist conspiracist site.  The reputable Southern Poverty Law Center has featured Veterans Today on their hate watch review for its Holocaust denial and other conspiracy theory stories.

A Veterans Today story from April 21 for example declares “Nikki Haley is a political maniac and a psychopath”. Ms. Haley is the American ambassador to the United Nations.