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додано: 25-09-2002
Richard Boucher: Daily Press Briefing
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QUESTION: Can you talk a bit about the report on Ukraine providing Iraq with some sensitive equipment? And I believe there might have even been guidance on this yesterday afternoon.

MR. BOUCHER: The reports of the sale of an early warning system from Ukraine to Iraq have been around for some time. What is new is that we've recently concluded an analysis of a July 2000 recording that was provided by the former Ukrainian presidential bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko. On one of the tapes, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is heard approving the clandestine sale of "Kolchuga" early warning systems to Iraq, and we believe this recording to be authentic.

This recording's authentication has led us to reexamine our policy towards Ukraine, in particular towards President Kuchma. We've initiated a temporary pause in new obligations of Freedom Support Act assistance that goes to the central government of Ukraine while we carry out this review.

The pause doesn't affect the bulk of our assistance to Ukraine, which goes to the private sector, including nongovernmental organizations and local and regional government bodies. Programs to support activities like small business, land titling and exchanges will continue. Our military-to-military and nonproliferation assistance would likewise be unaffected. But what we're doing is we're having a pause in programs that are with the central government authorities. These programs had a budget of approximately $54 million in fiscal year 2002 and they represent about 35 percent of our total Freedom Support Act assistance to Ukraine. Programs that are funded under this budget have included work with the Ukrainian Government on reforms in fiscal and commercial law, pensions and government regulations.

We remain committed now more than ever to help Ukraine undertake needed political and economic reforms and draw closer to the rest of Europe. Our ongoing policy review reflects our serious concern that illicit transfers to Iraq were approved by President Kuchma, as well as our determination to discourage further transfers by Ukraine or by any other country that violates UN sanctions on Iraq.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) about these for at least a year, I think, if not even longer than that. I remember last summer it was an issue. Was the US already leaning toward believing these stories or did it really take the tape to convince you that Kuchma had personally done this?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there were a variety of stories around. There wasn't necessarily evidence or confirmation of any kind, and it was the examination of these tapes that led to that confirmation and therefore the policy conclusions that we're drawing.

QUESTION: The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has denied this but denied it in a very interesting way, saying that there's no way that there could ever be any sales or delivery of such items to Iraq under their guidelines. Is there any evidence that this radar system was ever delivered, actually delivered to Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not certain that it was, that these systems are in Iraq. On the other hand, there are some indications that suggest it may be there, and we're continuing to assess those.

QUESTION: One other thing. I realize that although you date back to the last administration, I'm not sure you date back as far as July -- were you? I don't remember. Anyway, apparently one of the reasons that you guys are so upset about this is because this tape recording is from just very close to a time that former President Clinton was in Kiev and met with President Kuchma.

And I'm wondering if you remember back then, or if there is any institutional memory of whether this kind of thing -- sales, high-tech sales to Iraq -- was discussed at those meetings or at that meeting, and whether or not President Kuchma assured former President Clinton that he wasn't going to be -- that Ukraine wasn't going to be doing that kind of thing.

MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't remember for sure. The issue of sales to Iraq and respect for UN sanctions was indeed a frequent -- has been for a long time -- a frequent subject of discussion with the Ukraine Government at the highest levels because we're all aware that Ukraine has manufacturers and equipment that Iraq has sought to procure in the past because it was compatible with their previous stocks of military equipment. So it's been an ongoing issue that we've discussed frequently with the Ukraine Government to try to ensure that they protected against sales and made sure that no sales were made, despite Iraq's attempts to procure military equipment.

Whether a specific sale like this came up during the visit of President Clinton, I think I'd have to leave to the record that's already out there. I'm sure there were extensive White House briefings during that trip and you can probably find out from there how this issue was addressed.

QUESTION: Can you tell us whether there was any direct, once you've come to this conclusion, direct contacts either with our Ambassador or with Secretary Powell to the Foreign Ministry, and what maybe the message was? ‘How could you?’ Something like that?

MR. BOUCHER: There have been direct contacts between our Ambassador and the authorities in Kiev, and we have told them quite bluntly what we have concluded and what we were doing with our programs.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Is there some reason that you're particularly upset about -- had you received official assurances from Kuchma that this sale had not happened and that -- or that he had not approved it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'd have to look back at the record on that one, too. I don't particularly remember that.

I would say that any leader approving the sale to Iraq of this sophisticated detection system in violation of UN Security Council resolutions is a very serious matter, and that's a matter that we would take seriously no matter who it is. But it is a very serious matter to have a national leader approving a sale in violation of UN resolutions.

QUESTION: Are you planning to take action against Ukraine at the United Nations for violation of the Security Council resolutions?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We'll have to see. I don't know.

QUESTION: Richard, is there anything they can do now to, you know, to get out of this, to get their money restored? And since they've already approved it and possibly delivered it, or appear to have done, what can they do to --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything further to say on it at this moment. Certainly providing the full information on the situation and what may or may not have been delivered would be helpful, but I don't have a list of required things that I'd like to see them do at this point.

QUESTION: Just one more extremely briefly. You said that this has caused you to review your policy towards President Kuchma himself. Does this mean that he could possibly join that growing list of world leaders that you're not too thrilled about having in power?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particular list like that, Matt. We call 'em the way we see 'em when we see 'em.

QUESTION: Right, exactly. But, I mean, is there -- but is there something that you could take action against him personally, kind of like the sanctions that you've imposed on President Mugabe and his --

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're reviewing the situation in terms of our relations with him, and we will decide accordingly and tell you when it's time.

Okay. Same thing?

QUESTION: -- tapes involving President Kuchma? Did you just verify the authenticity of this one, or did you --

MR. BOUCHER: That's right. We really looked at this particular tape because of the issues involved. I don't have any broader --

QUESTION: Nothing on like the --

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing broader on the tapes.

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