Old friend Yushenko to be responsible for weapons?27.10.2010 | 21:12
Former Ukrainian president Victor Yushenko is likely to go to jail: according to one version, he personally controlled all financial schemes connected with arms supplies to Georgia. The country's general prosecutor's office is trying to bring down the fever stating that no suits have been filed yet. Does "Yushenko Case" have a future?
Mentions of the brotherhood of arms between Kiev and Tbilisi have been mostly negative in mass media. No wonder: Ukrainian weapons are claimed to be used in Clear Field operation, i.e. the Georgian army's attack on South Ossetia in August 2008.
Ukraine's "contribution" to the five-day war, naturally, was not approved in Moscow. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs evaluated Ukraine's weapons business as an attempt "to hide behind words". "Speaking about offensive or non-offensive arms", - deputy Russian FM Grigory Karasin remarked. - Some weapons really can't be referred to as offensive types. But if used in abundance, the army becomes more aggressive. So these tricks are pointless".
Official Kiev's position is not clear at home either. For instance, Valery Konovalyuk, who initiated creation of the fact-finding committee into legality of military cooperation between Ukraine and Georgia, was one of the first to accuse Victor Yushenko of illegal sale of arms to Sakartvelo.
According to the results of the committee's investigation, over the past four years Tbilisi received arms for the total amount of USD 2.5 bln with Kiev collecting only USD 200 thousand of it. Thus Georgia purchased 60 armored vehicles, 40 tanks, 14 rocket launchers, Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters as well as other weapons taken off duty in Ukrainian units. "Presently Ukraine is Georgia's number one arms supplier", - Konovalyuk was saying. - Shipments to Georgia are carried out through rearmament of the Ukrainian army with new samples taken off and sold for trifling sums".
In addition to selling a Buk - M1 multiple rocket launcher at a reduced price Ukraine sent a group of civil specialists to Georgia for maintenance services. These complexes were used to shoot down Russian combat aircrafts in August 2008. Konovalyuk believes that this "new shadow business of Yushenko and Saakashvili struck a colossal blow to Ukraine's budget.
Up to a certain moment official Kiev was keeping a stiff upper lip: officials asserted that supplies to Tbilisi were legal and could be continued in lack of arms embargo. Yushenko too was denying all accusations calling all information on illegal sales of arms "load of rubbish" at Dubai AirShow in 2009.
Upon Victor Yanukovich's advent to power Kiev's policies toward Tbilisi drastically changed. Naturally, it was reflected on a military component. As a result Ukraine categorically refused to sell arms to Georgia. "We are friends to everyone but as far as arms for Georgia are concerned this is the first time I hear about it. I think you have been misinformed", - first vice PM of Ukraine Andrey Kluev remarked.
Politologists and experts believe that the new situation is not surprising. According to Anatoly Tsiganok, head of Center for Military Forecast, Victor Yushenko and Mikheil Saakashvili were practically a family enterprise. "Moreover, as far as I know, the equipment Ukraine was shipping to Georgia was paid for by the United States, - Tsiganok says. - The situation changed after resignation of Bush, a friend to Yushenko and Saakashvili. Current president Obama will not pay for these "godfatherly" shipments".
However, it is not impossible that Georgian adventures will rebound on Yushenko. Valery Konovalyuk considers it possible that the prosecutor's office will launch a separate case against the ex president. Now there is only one criminal case under consideration at the General Prosecutor's office that was started a few years ago on illegal sales of arms by Ukraine in 2005. As reported, at the moment the checks are carried out but no specific names are indicated.
GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed possible developments with Denis Denisov, deputy head of Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS Countries. He remarks Ukraine has not had precedents of this kind and hardly will there be any. "The practice is to remit former president many things", - the expert emphasized. - Saying that the investigation will take place and that Yushenko will be made accountable with all criminal consequences is highly self-confident. This is almost impossible, I'm afraid". Moreover, Denisov is sure: the documents that will point to Yushenko as the main initiator of arms sales to Georgia won't be found.
The deputy head of Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS Countries believes that information on possible imprisonment for Yushenko is most probably part of the PR-action in the run-up to local elections scheduled for October 31. In conclusion Denisov added that until now no high-ranking official involved in illegal arms supplies to Georgia was held criminally liable. That means if the court proceedings begin, some second or third level officials will be punished, not Mikheil Saakashvili's close friend.