Ukraine involved in illegal arms trade – Timoshenko

The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Timoshenko, says her government has information that Ukraine is involved in the illegal arms trade. The statement came after conflicting reports about the final destination of ‘Faina’,

“We pass all the information we have to a special investigative commission which was established in the Rada [Ukrainian parliament] in order to probe the illegal arms trade, in which Ukraine is unfortunately involved today,” Timoshenko said.

Timoshenko said that such things as the arms trade should be under governmental control.

“The government today is trying to combat the grey economy and, in order to stop the illegal arms trade, the issue should be transferred from the president's control to the government’s. Then we will be able to put this issue in order,” she added.

But Timoshenko expressed concern whether or not the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, and the National Security and Defence Council will allow the government's watchdogs to check the legality of the arms trade.

“All arms trading is under direct control of the president and the National Security and Defence Council. The government, in fact, stands off this activity,” she explained.

Yulia Timoshenko was talking at a media-conference in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. The event was scheduled for live coverage on Ukrainian TV. However, it so happened that the country’s channels were closed for maintenance at that moment.

Ukraine’s arms laundry list

The Russian newspaper Izvestia has published a list of Ukrainian arms supplied to Georgia over the last 10 years. The newspaper says the list was compiled by the Ukrainian Parliament’s investigative commission.

1998-1999
Rocket ship “Tbilisi”
2 Patrol boats
10 L-29 Dolphin trainer and transport aircraft

2004
13 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers (APC)
28 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles
6 2S7 Pion self-propelled artillery guns (Nato designation M-1975)

2005
16 T-72 tanks
12 APCs
6 2S7 Pion self-propelled artillery guns (Nato designation M-1975)
6 Mi-24 ‘flying tank’ helicopters (Nato designation Mil-24 Hind)
2 Mi-8MT multi-purpose helicopters

June 2007
6 9K27M1 Buk-M1 air defence rocket systems (Nato designation SA-11 Gadfly)
48 9M33M3 guided air defence missiles
1 9M33M3-UD guided air defence missile
6 9M33M30GVM guided air defence missiles
150 to 200 air defence missile systems Strela and Igla (Nato designation SA-14 Gremlin and SA-18 Grouse)

August 2007
12 T-72 tanks with repair kits

2007
4 9K33 Osa air defence systems (Nato designation SA-8)
2 2K12 Kub air defence systems (Nato designation SA-6 Gainful)
2 2K11 Krug air defence systems (Nato designation SA-4 Ganef)

December 2007
T-72B tank with Kontakt reactive armour
3 Pion self-propelled artillery guns (Nato designation M-1975)

April 2007
T-72B tank with Kontakt reactive armour
T-72BK tank with Kontakt reactive armour (command version)

April 2007
2 BTR-70 armoured personnel carriers

June 2008
2 9A22BMZ vehicles for Osa air defence system

Shady deals and awkward questions

Remarkably, the seven Buk-M1 air defence systems that Ukraine sold to Georgia make for almost half of Ukraine’s total arsenal. The head of Ukrspetseksport company, Ukraine’s primary arms exporter, reported to President Yushchenko that without the Buks on duty several vital positions in the country would be defenceless in the event of attack. The President gave the deal the green light anyway, Izvestia says.

Shkval upgrade for BMP-1 vehicles is the latest development and is still being tested. The Ukrainian army doesn’t have them yet.

The price of the supplies has also stirred controversy. The Ukrainian news website segodnya.ua says the Buk-M1 missile systems were sold for $US 28 million each, while Pakistan offered $US 150 million for just one four years ago. T-70 tanks were sold for a quarter of their market price of $US 1 million.

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