Ukraine’s Nukes: Museum of The Strategic Rocket Troops

Pervomaisk used to be a busy military town up to 1991.  Many residents didn’t exactly know what was going on in the base headquarters—about 15 miles outside of town. They must have suspected something unusual—After all, their town did not officially exist. Its name did not appear on any printed map of the region, and access in and out was highly restricted.  After Ukraine became an independent country and gave up its nuclear weapons, an unusual landmark was  opened to the public that now explains some of the mystery.

The  U.S. Defense Department considered the missile arsenal at Pervomaisk one of the crown jewels of the USSR’s ballistic system. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine inherited 1,900 strategic nuclear weapons—but not the launch codes. If it had them, Ukraine would have become the world’s third largest nuclear power.  The warheads were eventually dismantled, and rockets destroyed. But the command posts stayed embedded deep underground.

Here officers in the Soviet army  did regular shifts , ready to get the call from Moscow to “push the button”, and send a nuclear tipped missile  directly to the U.S. It’s possible to descend  down to underground bunker in tiny elevator which can  only take four people at a time.