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24.04.2002 18:25

The Defense Ministry of Ethiopia maintains that all the three Kolchuga radar stations it had obtained from Ukraine are now serving the national defense interests of Ethiopia. This is pointed out in a message from the Defense Minister of Ethiopia addressed to the UkrSpetsExport state-owned arms exporting company s administration on Apr 22.

The message from the Ethiopian Defense Minister has come as a follow-up to the story surrounding the question as to whether passive radio detection radar stations Kolchuga might have somehow emerged in Iraq.

Earlier, former President Kuchma s bodyguard Maj. Mykola Melnychenko provided a U.S. court with a tape recording of a conversation between Kuchma and Valeri Malev, the late director general of UkrSPetsExport, discussing a scenario to supply the Kolchugas to Iraq via Jordan. Some time later, Yuri Riabkin, director of the Donetsk-based production association Topaz, which developed and manufactured the latest versions of Kolchugas, said in a statement that only four Kolchugas of the latest design had been put out in Ukraine, of which three have gone to Ethiopia, and one remained here in Ukraine.

The equipment has been supplied to Ethiopia through the agency of an intermediary company. In its Apr. 19 issue Israel s Gaarez newspaper published a story, which - beyond the Kolchugas, Iraq and Kuchma - gave a detailed description of the intermediary company. The Gaarez identified the company as Israel s LR, which belongs to three retired Israel Air Force pilots. The company, enjoining intensive business contacts in Ukraine, concentrates on purchasing radar systems from Ukraine to resell them to Third World nations, primarily in Africa. Among other countries, LR have sold Ukraine-made military and civilian radar stations to Angola and the Congo.

About two years ago -- before the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea in a bid to end a bloody conflict between them - that company had sold Ethiopia $6 million worth of Kolchugas it had bought from Ukraine. That deal - which took place roughly within the same time limits as mentioned in connection with the scandal around alleged Kolchuga supplies to Iraq - rose much suspicion of the USA.

The story in the Gaarez also suggested that Ethiopia might have served as a base for shipping Kolchugas from Ukraine to Iraq. This made Ukraine officially request Ethiopia to provide information on whereabouts of the three Kolchugas it had imported from Ukraine.

For that matter it should be noted that, as Defense Express has learnt, the intermediary company mentioned in the story in Gaarez holds its resident office in Ukraine under the title LR Avionics Technologies Ltd. And the company seems to be ready soon to share with Defense Express its remarks on the story involving Kolchugas.

What we have for the time being is a categorical statement by the Defense Ministry of Ethiopia, saying that Ethiopia did buy three Kolchuga radar stations from Ukraine in 2000, all of which remain in Ethiopia and are being operated by Ethiopia s Defense Ministry .

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