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додано: 25-09-2002
Michael Wines: Ukraine-Iraq radar deal suspected
New York Times

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Ukraine-Iraq radar deal suspected
Tape implies Hussein bought stealth system

Michael Wines, New York Times Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Moscow -- Relying on an analysis of clandestine tape recordings, the United States has concluded that Ukraine's president, Leonid Kuchma, personally approved a plan in July 2000 to sell Iraq an advanced radar system that can detect approaching aircraft without their pilots' knowledge.

Although there is no definitive proof that the sale was made, the government has "some indications" that the radars are now inside Iraq, said a high-level U.S. official.

The radar system, nicknamed Kolchuga after the Russian word for chain-mail armor, is a so-called passive radar system. It has a complex of four receivers that pick up and coordinate the position of signals emitted by approaching objects. It is described as capable of detecting aircraft as far away as 500 miles and ground targets up to 370 miles away.

Experts say the radar's manufacturers have claimed that it is able to detect even so-called stealth aircraft without being detected itself. When Ukraine first exhibited the radars at a Jordan arms show in April 2000, it claimed that they were the most advanced in the world.

Steven Zaluga, a military technology analyst for Teal Group Corp., a consulting firm in Virginia, said the ability of such passive systems to spot stealth aircraft was overrated, largely because American stealth fighters and bombers emit few or no signals.

Conventional American fighter jets emit signals from altimeters, radar and other devices. The question, Zaluga said, is whether the Kolchuga system is sophisticated enough to resolve those signals from the cacophony of ordinary airwaves.

U.S. and British fighters patrol the skies over Iraq daily and have been fired on countless times but never brought down.

"If it's a high-quality system, it would be of some concern," Zaluga said.

Experts at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the U.S. government say they have determined the authenticity of a clandestine tape-recording in which a voice believed to be Kuchma's is heard discussing smuggling the radar system to Iraq.

That tape, along with 300 hours of other secretly recorded conversations, were brought to America by a former presidential security guard, Mykola Melnychenko, who fled Ukraine in 2001. Melnychenko, an anti-Kuchma campaigner who is a refugee in the United States, gave the original copy to the U.S. government for testing this summer.

The U.S. finding has been relayed to NATO members and to Ukrainian officials, whose response "is mostly a denial that this has happened," the official said.

If the Kolchuga radars are proven to be in Iraq, it could lead to more severe punishment under both U.S. law and the international arms embargo imposed on Iraq by the United Nations.

Over the last five years Ukraine has become the world's sixth-largest arms supplier.

The tape recording is said to document a conversation between Kuchma and Valeriy Malev, then the director of Ukraine's arms-export agency Ukrspetsexport. According to one public transcript released by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, which Melnychenko said was accurate, Malev told Kuchma: "We were approached by Iraq through our Jordanian intermediary. They want to buy four Kolchuga stations and offer $100 million up front."

Malev suggested that the system be packed in the crates of another Ukrainian company, Kraz, and that Ukrainians with forged passports be sent to Iraq to oversee its installation.

"Just watch that the Jordanian keeps his mouth shut," Kuchma replied.

"Who is going to detect it?" Malev replied. "We don't sell much to them, I mean to Jordan." Kuchma then answered, "OK. Go ahead."

That apparent go-ahead on July 10, 2000, if true, came barely five weeks after President Bill Clinton visited Kiev and offered a badly needed show of support for Kuchma's leadership.

U.S. officials said they considered the verification of the recording sufficient cause to suspend temporarily the $55 million in aid to Ukraine under the Freedom Support Act, which finances pro-democracy and economic reform programs in former Soviet republics. Because that aid is designed to promote Western values, much of it could be restored after the government completes its review of policy toward Ukraine.

Other crucial assistance -- for example, aid to help Ukraine dismantle its Soviet-era nuclear programs -- is unaffected by the suspension.

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