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Script-flipping on Il-762009-12-15 16:03
Ukraine and Georgia, old friends-in-arms got mixed up in a dirty story of transporting 35 tons of armaments from North Korea to Sri Lanka. Georgia's IL-76 aircraft detained in Thailand had been transferred to a Ukrainian company. The inquiry hasn't found the cargo owner yet but it is already clear that the tricky aircraft lease scheme was set up to disguise arms dealers.
On a tip from the US intelligence service the Thai authorities captured IL-76 aircraft loaded with armaments on the way from North Korea to Sri-Lanka. Security bodies suspect the arms were meant for terrorists in Sri-Lanka or for Middle East countries.
The aircraft crew was arrested. These are four citizens of Kazakhstan: Alexander Zrybnev, Viktor Abdullaev, Vitaly Shimkov, Ilyas Isakov and Mikhail Petukhov, a citizen of Belarus.
The Nation newspaper presents Petukhov's interrogation materials. He said the aircraft had left Ukraine for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. On the way to Pyongyang the crew made three refuel stops - in Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
Embarking the cargo in North Korea (35-40 tons of armaments including reactive grenades, air-to-land missiles and 12 containers with ammunition) the aircraft started back. It was supposed to make two refuel stops in Thailand and Sri-Lanka. The crew was detained during the first stop.
The aircraft itself had long been registered with a Kazakh air company. But the chairman of civil aviation committee with the Transport and Communications Ministry of Kazakhstan Radilbek Adimolda stated today the aircraft had been transferred to a Georgian air company and written off the state register in Kazakhstan as early as in October.
The Georgian authorities were quick to contradict that. Giorgy Bokuchava in charge of the transport administration stated the detained IL-76 was registered with a Georgian air company but was leased to a Ukrainian company. Ukrainian authorities are not happy about the prospect to be mixed up in an arms scandal either. Petr Poroshenko, the republican FM stated the aircraft was not Ukrainian and the purpose of a stopover was refueling.
Later there appeared confirmation from Ukraine's Ministry of Transport and Communication. "The aircraft is registered in Georgia, and the crew are not Ukrainian citizens. There were no flight requests on this aircraft from the airports of Ukraine", - first deputy minister of transport Vasily Shevchenko said, URA-Inform reports. He also added that the State Air Administration had not received documents that would prove that the Georgian aircraft had been leased to the Ukrainian air company.