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Kiev continues to sell arms to Tbilisi

February 14, 2012, 13:29 UTC+3
Baramidze confirmed that Viktor Yanukovich's team does not share the Russian authorities' position
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MOSCOW, February 14 (Itar-Tass) — A new scandal between Russia and Ukraine is in the offing over supplies of Ukrainian armaments to Georgia, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Deputy Prime Minister, State Minister for European and European-Atlantic integration Georgy Baramidze said in an interview to the newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli that such contracts existed and were being executed. There have been no official comments from Ukraine.

Baramidze confirmed that Viktor Yanukovich's team does not share the Russian authorities' position that the supplies of weapons aggravate the situation in southern Caucasus: "Moscow's position is not shared by practically the entire international community. Thank God, Ukraine is on the side of the rest of the world."

The news became a sensation, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta underlined, because in 2008 and 2009, when Viktor Yushchenko was president, the Ukrainian authorities assured Russia that they would observe the ban on armaments for Georgia of their own accord. Arseny Yatsenyuk, the then Ukrainian parliament speaker, said so to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov immediately after the conflict in 2008, while former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko later confirmed the accords in the course of talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In April 2009, Timoshenko said "no supplies are being effected at present.'

New First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Klyuyev assured reporters in October 2010 that there would be no new arms contracts with Georgia. He explained that Ukraine has brotherly relations with Russia, therefore Kiev will not violate the ban.

Eighteen months later, it turned out that Ukraine continues to supply arms to Georgia. Representatives of new Ukrainian authorities seem to be as friendly with their Georgian colleagues as members of Yushchenko's team. Last autumn, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told the Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya: "I have excellent relations with Viktor Fyodorovich /Yanukovich/. Even when he was in the Opposition, I came to Kiev and met with him and visited him in his country house. I've never made it a secret."

The official Kiev ignores the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Baramdize. Neither side has said what exactly Ukraine sells to Georgia. Head of the center for the studies of the army, defense conversion and disarmament Valentin Badrak suggested that Ukraine might be selling radars, surveillance systems, and means to combat high-precision weapons - to protect helicopters from attacks from the ground. A detailed list would not cause Russia’s objections. "It would be another matter if the supplies included offensive armaments, such as tanks, and artillery and salvo systems," the expert said.

The first scandal broke out in 2008; Opposition lawmakers from the Party of Regions stated that Yushchenko's team had been arming Georgia since 2005. According to the information leaked to the mass media, Ukraine sold Georgia 50 missiles for Buk-M1 and Buk-M1-2 systems, some 200 shoulder-fired Strela and Igla missiles, the Grad salvo systems, helicopters, aircraft, armored vehicles, and long-range automated passive electronic surveillance systems Kolchuga. No resignations or criminal cases followed the scandal.

Co-director of the program of foreign policy and international security at the Razumkov center Alexei Melnik explained to the newspaper that Ukraine has to meet its commitments under the earlier contracts. "As for new contracts with Georgia, I believe Kiev will be much more cautions. It is understandable how Moscow will take the news. But, taken into account the numerous claims we have heard from Russia recently, the problem is probably more complex and broader: Ukrainian-Russian relations have been in the condition of simmering conflict for years, which occasionally goes to the stage of gas/cheese/information wars."

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