BISHKEK. Armed, masked men stole more than 400 kilograms of nuclear material from a factory in Kyrgyzstan. Interior Ministry spokesman Joldoshbek Busurmankulov told RFERL today that the thieves took more than 450 kilograms of the rare-earth element "Europium".
On January 7, 2002, at around 22.00, the six men broke into a warehouse at Orlovka in Kyrgyzstan's northern Chui region, about 90 kilometers to the east from Bishkek, disarmed the guards and stole more than 20 boxes of Europium. According to Busurmankulov, the stolen material is not a dangerous element, which would be used for terrorist attacks. Europium oxide has several industrial uses, for example, it can be used in the rods that control nuclear elements. Police said they suspect someone ordered the theft. The factory at Orlovka was a so-called "closed area" during the Soviet era.