MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian villager discovered a stockpile of Kalashnikov assault rifles hidden in the wooden crates he bought for $15 from a stranger to use as fuel for his winter stove.
A total of 79 guns and 253 cartridges were stuffed in more than 60 wooden boxes bought by a resident of the village of Sovkhozny in Udmurtia, a region some 1,300 km South-East of Moscow, Interfax news agency reported on Friday.
The 57-year old local resident said he bought them from a random truck driver for 500 roubles ($15.81) to heat his home.
The fully functional rifles, produced in 1959-1960, were on their way to a recycling plant from Izhmash, one of the country's oldest arms manufacturing plants, the company said, when they wound up in the man's possession.
Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, appointed last December by President Dmitry Medvedev to oversee the country's defense industry, said he will launch a probe into the mysterious appearance of automatic rifles.
"Wow! I will hold a meeting with Izhmash about its firearms next week and we will deal with this miracle," he wrote on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/dmitry.rogozin.
A deadly mixture of corner cutting and negligence continues to plague Russia's defense industry 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, with Russia still the world's second-largest arms exporter.
"I imagine how scared the West is of our nuclear arms," a Facebook user Oleg Zabara wrote in a comment on Rogozin's post. "Not because they exist, but because they could accidentally fall on them (by mistake), just like those rifles got to that old man."
It was not immediately clear if the driver was aware that he was carrying firearms in the boxes he rushed to cash in on, but investigators said a probe will look into the incident.
($1 = 31.6182 Russian roubles)
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk, editing by Paul Casciato)