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Ukraine Says Several Hundred Missiles Are Missing

Several hundred Soviet-built missiles are unaccounted for in Ukraine's military arsenals, Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk said in an interview that could raise new international concern about weapons leaks.

"We are looking for several hundred missiles," Marchuk was quoted as saying in an interview published in the Den newspaper late last week. "They have already been decommissioned, but we cannot find them."

Marchuk stopped short of saying that the missiles had been sold and appeared to suggest that they had been dismantled without proper accounting — an apparent jab at his predecessors.

He did not say what types of missiles are unaccounted for, but Defense Ministry spokesman Kostyantyn Khivrenko said that the minister was referring to S-75 air defense missiles, known in the West as SA-2s.

Khivrenko said that hundreds of such missiles from Soviet arsenals in Warsaw Pact member countries had been brought to Ukraine for dismantling but were lost due to "accounting problems."

He said that the absence of records documenting what happened to the missiles was "strange" and added that an official investigation was under way.

Marchuk said that when he became minister "no one knew what the armed forces had," and after nine months in the job he still does not have precise information. He said that inventories of military equipment revealed a gaping hole equivalent to some 1 trillion hryvna ($189 billion), a figure that a defense analyst said referred to the valuable by-products from dismantled weapons rather than weapons themselves.

"This is a result of negligent accounting practices," Heorhiy Kryuchkov, head of parliament's committee on national security and defense, was quoted by Interfax as saying. "They were not stolen. If this had happened, it would have been made known long ago."

Marchuk's statement drew renewed attention to numerous reports of military equipment leaking out of Ukraine amid the post-Soviet turmoil.

In 2002, the United States claimed Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma sanctioned the sale of military radar to Iraq. Kuchma denied the allegation.

(The Moscow Times 29.iii.04)

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