Last month, a member of Ukraine's parliament claimed Ukraine had sold to Iran and China cruise missiles with a range sufficient to reach Israel or Japan, respectively, and designed to carry nuclear warheads.  --  On Friday, Ukraine's prosecutor-general confirmed to the Financial Times (UK) that 18 of the 1,000 X-55 (a.k.a. Kh-55 or AS-15) missiles in Ukraine's possession were exported several years ago.[1]  --  The foreign minister of Ukraine's new government characterized the sales as "non-democratic actions that were carried out by the previous authorities," and the prosecutor-general's office confirmed that a "criminal investigation of the director of the company Ukraviazakas" had been opened, AFP reported, noting that the confirmation of the report "is likely to heighten suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear program."[2]  --  The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Iran had received 12 of the missiles, each of which "is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield at altitudes too low to be detected by radar."[3] -- An aide to Ukraine's prosecutor-general told David Holley of the Times that "It was a totally illegal deal, carried out by an international criminal group," and that the Kuchma government had not been involved, but Hrihory Omelchenko, the legislator who made the original report, said:  "It is ridiculous . . . Kuchma was in the picture from the very beginning, and in other words he sanctioned the deals."  --  Quoting Omelchenko, AP gave a detailed account of the deal, and said the missiles had a range of 1,860 miles.[4] -- Although the missiles were designed to be launched from long-range bombers of a sort Iran does not possess, "it is believed Tehran could adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile," AP reported. -- It is noteworthy (but goes unnoted in these articles) that in June 2002 the Washington Post reported that "Israel has acquired three diesel submarines that it is arming with newly designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to former Pentagon and State Department officials, potentially giving Israel a triad of land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons for the first time."[5] ...



By Tom Warner

Financial Times (UK)
March 18, 2005

KIEV -- Ukraine has admitted that it exported 12 cruise missiles to Iran and six to China amid mounting pressure from other countries to explain how the sales occurred.

Svyatoslav Piskun, Ukraine's prosecutor-general, told the FT that 18 X-55 cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55s or AS-15s, were exported in 2001. None of the missiles was exported with the nuclear warheads they were designed to carry. However, Japan and the U.S. say they are worried by what appears to have been a significant leak of technology from the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.

The X-55 has a range of 3,000 km, enough to put Japan within striking range of the Asian continent or to reach Israel from Iran.

The U.S. embassy in Kiev said it was "closely monitoring" the investigation and wanted the findings of a secret trial made public. The U.S. is critical of European diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons.

Japan fears it could be vulnerable to a nuclear strike from the Asian mainland if the Ukrainian missiles fall into Korean hands.

Kishichiro Amae, Japan's ambassador in Kiev, said he was hopeful that the new Ukrainian government, which took over in January, would explain the case but so far he had received no information.

Mr. Amae said the new Ukrainian government had shown its readiness to investigate the previous government's misdemeanors when it indicted three high-ranking interior ministry officers this month for the murder in 2000 of journalist Georgy Gongadze. But he said the cruise missile case was more serious. "If it is handled in secrecy, the new government will lose the confidence of the world."

Mr. Piskun's admission that Ukraine sold the missiles is the first confirmation by a government official that the exports occurred. The case was made public last month by a member of Ukraine's parliament, whose account Mr. Piskun largely confirmed.

The acquisition by Iran of cruise missiles, if proved, would heighten concerns about its nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Piskun said he understood Japan was concerned that the missiles delivered to China could have ended up in North Korea, although there were no grounds to suspect such a transfer.

Ukraine had about 1,000 of the missiles in its arsenal after the break-up of the Soviet Union, about half of which were meant to have been turned over to Russia in the 1990s and the other half of which were supposed to have been destroyed under a U.S.-funded disarmament program.

The previous government arrested and charged a Ukrainian businessman for the exports and initiated a secret trial last year, which was still under way, Mr. Piskun said.

Two Russian businessmen were suspected of masterminding the sale, Mr. Piskun said, one of whom, Oleg Orlov, was arrested last July in Prague in response to a Ukrainian warrant. The Czech justice ministry said it was holding Mr. Orlov pending a hearing on Ukraine's extradition request.

Olexander Turchinov, new chief of the SBU, has reopened the investigation and has found grounds to suspect two former arms-export officials, Mr. Piskun's spokesman said. A spokeswoman for Mr. Turchinov confirmed that further investigations and a secret trial were under way in connection with the case.



Agence France-Presse
March 19, 2005§ion=theworld

KIEV -- Ukraine has sold nuclear-capable cruise missiles to both China and Iran, the prosecutor-general’s office said Friday, but stressed that the deals were illegal and under criminal investigation.

“This is not about exports of missiles but rather illegal sales which are being investigated by the SBU (security service) which has opened a criminal investigation of the director of the company Ukraviazakas,” the office said in a statement confirming a report by the London-based Financial Times’s Friday edition.

The investigation was welcomed late on Friday by the United States, which along with Japan is reportedly worried about what appears to be a significant leak of military technology.

“I think it’s fair to say that both the United States government and the Ukrainian government share a common concern and a dedication to acting to find out and prevent cases of proliferation,” deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

“We’ve been working with the Ukrainian government to clamp down on proliferation. And the Ukrainian government, since these reports have come out, has said it’s launching an internal investigation,” he said.

“We certainly look forward to the results of that investigation,” Ereli said. “And we’ll work with them on steps and measures and joint actions we can take to prevent this kind of proliferation in the future.”

Svyatoslav Piskun, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, told the Financial Times that 18 Soviet-era X-55 cruise missiles were exported in 2001 -- 12 to Iran and six to China.

Piskun was also quoted as saying that the missiles were not exported with the nuclear warheads that they were designed to carry.

His office said a suspect in the case was currently standing a closed-door trial in Kiev.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk said that the country’s new leadership, which assumed power during late last year, was not responsible for the sales.

“We can only condemn the non-democratic actions that were carried out by the previous authorities,” he said while on a visit to neighboring Belarus.

“The results of (our) investigation point to a criminal group that was involved in unlawful sales of arms,” he said. Tarasyuk said the group included citizens of several countries.

The X-55, an air-launched missile also known as the Kh-55 and AS-15 and first introduced in 1976, has a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles), which would give China—or North Korea, if it obtained the missile—easy access to Japan, while Iran could hit its main regional foe, Israel.

Last month the Ukrainian government opened a criminal inquiry, at the request of Japan, into the illegal sale of 18 missiles by the Ukrspetsexport arms group to unspecified states via Russia.

The Ukrainian confirmation of missiles sales to Iran comes amid a tense diplomatic debate over Tehran’s alleged quest for nuclear weaponry.

Reports about the missile sales going to Iran emerged earlier this month.

However Friday’s statement was the first acknowledgement from the Kiev government, and is likely to heighten suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear program.

The Islamic republic insists its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful civilian use but Washington claims it is designed to produce nuclear arms.

Ukraine had a massive weapons arsenal after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it returned its nuclear warheads to Russia or destroyed them under a U.S.-funded disarmament program.

Its remaining weaponry is, however, a source of major concern in the West, fueled by several high-profile cases of arms trafficking including radar technology to Saddam Hussein’s now ousted regime in Iraq.

Two anti-aircraft missiles and a launch system were reported stolen last month from a Ukrainian naval base in the Crimean peninsula, while Turkey reported seizing a Ukrainian radio-controlled missile and missile heads en route to Egypt last June.


Nation & World

World News

By David Holley

Los Angeles Times
March 19, 2005

MOSCOW -- Smugglers in Ukraine shipped 18 cruise missiles, each capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, to Iran and China at the beginning of the decade, Ukrainian prosecutors said yesterday.

The apparent sale to Iran of 12 of the Soviet-era Kh55 cruise missiles, which have a range of 1,860 miles, probably will add to concerns in Washington, D.C., over alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons in Iran.

Allegations of the sales first surfaced last month in comments by a Ukrainian legislator, but public confirmation by the new administration of President Viktor Yushchenko came only yesterday.

Each missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield at altitudes too low to be detected by radar, and their shipment has been portrayed as a significant leak of Soviet-era weapons technology.

Yuri Boychenko, an aide to Ukraine's prosecutor-general, said in a phone interview from Kiev, the capital, that sales had not involved the government of then-President Leonid D. Kuchma.

"It was a totally illegal deal, carried out by an international criminal group," Boychenko said.

But Hrihory Omelchenko, the legislator who went public last month with allegations of the smuggling operation, yesterday charged, "It is ridiculous [for prosecutors] to say that they have no information about the involvement of high state officials.

"The deal, or actually two deals, were from the very beginning monitored by Ukrspetsexport, the state-owned arms sale monopoly," Omelchenko said in a phone interview. "Kuchma was in the picture from the very beginning, and in other words he sanctioned the deals."

Omelchenko said the missiles were shipped to China in 2000 and to Iran in 2001. If the missiles were made operational, they could strike Israel if launched from Iran and Japan if fired from China or its neighbor, North Korea.

The Japanese government reportedly is worried that the six missiles allegedly shipped to China could have ended up in North Korea, which claims to possess nuclear weapons. China is a longtime nuclear power that possesses a variety of long-range missile types.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have discussed the alleged missile sales. "Ukraine has launched an internal investigation into the incident. That's certainly something we welcome," he said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, speaking to reporters during a visit to Belarus, said the country's new reformist government bears "no responsibility for what our predecessors have done" and "can only denounce past unauthorized transfers of arms.



By Aleksandar Vasovic

** Ukraine Prosecutors Say Weapons Dealers Smuggled Nuclear-Capable Missiles to Iran, China **

Associated Press
March 18, 2005

KIEV -- Ukrainian weapons dealers smuggled 18 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China during former President Leonid Kuchma's rule, prosecutors said Friday. The missiles have the range to reach U.S. allies.

The Kh55 cruise missiles were smuggled out of the former Soviet republic four years ago, the Prosecutor General's office said Friday in a statement. Prosecutors said the missiles, which have a range of 1,860 miles, were sold illegally and were not exported by Ukrainian enterprises.

The Associated Press reported exclusively on Feb. 4 that a government probe into lucrative illicit weapons sales by officials loyal to Kuchma had led to secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable missiles to Iran and China.

On Friday, prosecutors confirmed that legal proceedings had begun in the case but did not say how many people were implicated or whether charges had been filed against them. "The proceedings against persons implicated (in the illicit sale) have been forwarded to the Kiev Court of Appeals and are being heard behind closed doors," the Prosecutor General's office said in a statement.

Last month, the AP reported that missiles purportedly ended up in Iran and China although export documents known as end-user certificates recorded the final recipient of some 20 Kh55 missiles as "Russia's Defense Ministry," according to a letter written by a lawmaker to current President Viktor Yushchenko.

The letter by lawmaker Hrihoriy Omelchenko did not say what happened to the other missiles. The Kh55, known in the West as the AS-15, is designed to carry a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield. Omelchenko, who also serves as a reserve colonel in the intelligence service, had made his letters available to AP.

The missiles allegedly sold to Iran were unarmed. The United States and other Western nations have accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, an allegation Tehran denies.

Iran does not operate long-range bombers but it is believed Tehran could adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. The missile's range would put Israel and a number of other U.S. allies within reach.

China is a declared nuclear weapons state. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials were not available for comment Friday.

Omelchenko's letter to Yushchenko and another to the prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Piskun, refer to a Ukrainian Security Service report that details the allegations.

At least three people were arrested and another three were indicted last year in connection with the illicit arms trade, an intelligence official told AP on condition of anonymity. The official did not identify the suspects.

According to Omelchenko, in 2000 Russian national Oleg Orlov and a Ukrainian partner identified as E.V. Shilenko "exported 20 Kh55 cruise missiles through a fake contract and end-user certificate" with Russia's state-run arms dealer and with a firm called Progress, which is a daughter company of Ukrspetseksport Ukraine's weapons exporting agency.

Last year, prosecutors indicted Orlov and Shilenko in absentia for illegal weapons trading, according to officials. Orlov, detained July 13 in the Czech Republic, had been involved in extradition proceedings to return him to Ukraine for prosecution until his deteriorating health interrupted the process. Shilenko remains at large.

It wasn't clear if they were among the three people referred to by the intelligence official who spoke to AP last month.

The official said the investigation into alleged illicit arms dealing began quietly well over a year ago during Kuchma's presidency.

But Yushchenko, who took office in January after a bitter election campaign, has promised to investigate illicit weapons-dealing, including a U.S. allegation that Kuchma approved the sale of a sophisticated Kolchuga radar system to Iraq despite U.N. sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime. Kuchma denied the allegations.

On Feb. 25, a top defense official ordered officials to take an inventory of all military weaponry and equipment in Ukraine after two anti-aircraft missile systems were discovered missing from a military depot.

Petro Poroshenko, chief of Ukraine's Defense and Security Council, gave the military six weeks to perform a "total inventory," noting that it would be an "extremely difficult task" given the size of the country's weapons stores.



Special Reports

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Walter Pincus

Washington Post
June 15, 2002
Page A01¬Found=true

Israel has acquired three diesel submarines that it is arming with newly designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to former Pentagon and State Department officials, potentially giving Israel a triad of land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons for the first time.

The U.S. Navy monitored Israeli testing of a new cruise missile from a submarine two years ago off Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, according to former Pentagon officials.

One former senior American official said U.S. analysts have studied the nuclear capability of the cruise missile. But, according to a former Pentagon official, "It is above top secret knowing whether the sub-launched cruise missiles are nuclear-armed." Another former official added, "We often don't ask."

The possible move to arm submarines with nuclear weapons suggests that the Israeli government might be increasingly concerned about efforts by Iraq and Iran to develop more accurate long-range missiles capable of knocking out Israel's existing nuclear arsenal, which is primarily land-based.

Although developing a sea-based leg would preserve the deterrent value of Israel's nuclear force, according to analysts, it would complicate U.S. efforts to keep other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere from seeking to acquire nuclear arms. It also could spur a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Israel has long refused to confirm or deny it has nuclear weapons. U.S. analysts say it has a modest arsenal of short- and medium-range nuclear-capable missiles, nuclear bombs that could be delivered from jet fighters and Harpoon missiles that could be launched from planes or ships.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, confirmed that his country had recently acquired three submarines from Germany but would not comment on whether they were being outfitted with nuclear weapons. "There has been no change in Israel's long-standing position not to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East," Regev said.

A book published this week by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported that Israel was attempting to arm its diesel submarines with nuclear cruise missiles.

"Probably the most important nuclear-related development in Israel is the formation of its sea-based nuclear arm," wrote Joseph Cirincione, director of the Carnegie Endowment's nonproliferation project and a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee who served as chief author of the book.

The U.S. government "favors" Israel's preserving the ambiguity surrounding its nuclear force, just as it has since the late 1960s, a former senior U.S. diplomat said. "It gives it a strategic deterrence," he said, adding, "If [Israel] were being explicit, that would create problems with its neighbors like Egypt and Syria . . . whose leaders years ago agreed that [ambiguity] did not pose an offensive threat to them."

Iraq and Iran, he added, are different because "they are destabilizing" countries and could launch a first strike against Israel or U.S. forces in the region if they succeed in developing and deploying nuclear weapons.

There have been published reports going back to 1998 that describe Israel's acquisition of the diesel submarines and its testing of a cruise missile.

In an article two years ago in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Reuven Pedatzur, a former Israeli fighter pilot and director of the Galili Center for Strategy and National Security, wrote that Israel was motivated by "the need to find deterrence solutions . . . from the probability that during the next decade Iran, and maybe even Iraq, will acquire the nuclear ballistic capability to hit Israeli targets."

Pedatzur said that faced with that threat, a submarine force armed with missiles is a reliable deterrent because Israel's enemies would not be able to locate and destroy them and thus "that it is impossible to avoid their lethal counterstrike."

The Carnegie Endowment book said Israel "is believed to have deployed" 100 Jericho short-range and medium-range missiles that are nuclear-capable. In addition, it has nuclear bombs that could be delivered from U.S.-made F-16 jet fighters and U.S.-built Harpoon missiles that could be launched from planes or ships.

Israel's nuclear-capable, sea-launched cruise missiles were tested in May 2000, the book said, and might have a range of more than 900 miles. With three submarines, Israel could "have a deployment at sea of one nuclear-armed submarine at all times," the book said.

"Such a survivable deterrent is perceived as essential because of Israel's unique geopolitical and demographical vulnerability to nuclear attack, and one that no potential enemy of Israel could ignore," it said.

Cirincione said Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and modernization of its systems creates an "extremely difficult situation" not just for the United States, but also for preventing other countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty from breaking away. Israel's possession of weapons remains officially ambiguous, but Israel, along with Pakistan and India, did not sign the treaty.

Israel is only one of 15 countries discussed in the book, which describes the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their missile delivery systems. It updates a similar volume produced by the Carnegie Endowment four years ago.

Cirincione said at least eight countries have nuclear weapons -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan -- and three more are apparently seeking them -- Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Four countries, he said, have in recent years given up their weapons -- South Africa and the former Soviet republics Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The book attributed Iran's decision to seek nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to its experience during its war with Iraq in the 1980s, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian forces. Iran is influenced by its "extended neighborhood [where] it sees Israel, India and Pakistan with advanced nuclear weapons" and Iraq's weapons program no longer subject to inspection by the United Nations, the book said.

The authors said U.S. sanctions against Iran, which have hurt its ability to build conventional military forces, "have likely worked toward reaffirming belief in the utility of unconventional weapons."

Iraq's search for nuclear and biological weapons rests on Hussein's desire to be the "dominant power in the Middle East" and his belief that "a nuclear bomb would provide him with the ultimate symbol of military power," the book said. It said "Iraq may have a workable design for a nuclear weapon" and that if Baghdad "were to acquire material from another country, it is possible that it could assemble a nuclear weapon in months."