Map of Russian nuclear targets in UK dates back to the Cold War

2 March 2022
What was claimed

A map shows the potential sites of Russian nuclear strikes on the UK.

Our verdict

The locations were suggested by the UK government in documents made 50 years ago, during the Cold War, and don’t give any reliable indication of the situation today.

A map being shared on Facebook claims to show the locations of potential Russian nuclear targets in the UK. Twenty towns and cities are highlighted on the map including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

As far as we can tell, the map was first published by the Daily Star in 2018, and has been published again recently by the Daily Star and Daily Mirror (which credits the Daily Star for the image).

Some of the Facebook posts clearly link the map to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Daily Star says in its recent headline: “Russian nuclear targets for Britain mapped amid rising tensions after Ukraine invasion”. According to estimates, Russia and the United States have by far the largest stockpiles of nuclear warheads in the world.

But this map hasn’t been made in response to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nor is it based on recent intelligence information. It relates to UK government documents made 50 years ago, during the Cold War, and doesn't give any reliable indication of the situation today.

The map itself seems to have been created by the Daily Star in 2018, but the basis for the locations was revealed four years earlier. In 2014, the National Archives released documents originating in the 1970s, when Edward Heath was Prime Minister, in which military and civil experts had drawn up a list of 106 “probable nuclear targets” across the country. It’s not clear why the map features just 20 locations, or if the order they’re listed is significant.

As the Guardian reported at the time, the author of the documents cautioned: "It is not a comprehensive list of all targets likely to be attacked in the event of general war". 

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence also commented at the time: "These are historical records and like many other documents released every year by the National Archives have little or no relevance to the present day."

Photo by Dmitry Terekhov on Flickr

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