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19 Sep, 2009 09:21

Ukraine’s “helping hand” in Ossetian war

A newspaper in Ukraine has reported that Kiev provided assistance to Tbilisi during last year's armed conflict with Russia in South Ossetia.

The report, citing a source in the country's Prosecutor General's office, claims that Ukrainian nationals helped maintain air defense systems supplied by the country. Kiev officially denies the allegations.

The headlines say, “Our People Were There…”

The daily newspaper “Segodnya” is sure it has got the lowdown on Ukraine's involvement in the war in South Ossetia. Its unnamed source says an official investigation proves Kiev sold weapons to Georgia ahead of the conflict. The source goes on to say Ukrainian soldiers were actively involved, and could have been responsible for the downing of Russian fighter jets.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has refuted the newspaper’s story.

“I firmly declare that Ukrainian servicemen did not take part in the South Ossetia conflict. This has already been proved by numerous checks,” said Yury Viytev of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office.

Opposition member and Rada Deputy Valery Konovalyuk headed the parliamentary investigation into the allegations. His commission traveled to Tskhinval to prove the claims. Konovalyuk said they found enough evidence to prove that Kiev did take part in the war.

“We provided data on what those Ukrainians were doing in Georgia, how they got there and who paid the bill,” Valery Konovalyuk explained, a Rada deputy. “They were secretly taken off the Ukraine Defense Ministry’s lists and employed by another organization.”

“They are specialists of all sorts – from technicians who assembled the missile systems to servicemen who operated the missile launchers,” the deputy added.

Ukraine’s alleged participation in the military action has caused a tsunami in the country’s political life – both internally and in its relations with Russia.

Following Konovalyuk’s investigation, some politicians insisted high-ranking officials, including President Yushchenko, should go on trial for illegal weapon sales. Talks of his impeachment have been circulating among politicians in Kiev.

Valery Konovalyuk says he presented the results of his investigation to the Prosecutor General’s office last December. In addition, the deputy is bewildered as to why it is taking officials so long to check his data and come up with a conclusion. He believes the publication is being stalled because of the Presidential elections in just a few months time.

Recently, investigators in Moscow listed the names of Ukrainian nationals they believe took part in the South Ossetian conflict fighting on a Georgian side.

Officially, Kiev continues to deny all the allegations linking it to the war. And more than a year on, this issue remains one of the biggest sticking points between Russia and Ukraine.