KIEV, Ukraine – U.S. and British investigators said Monday that there is a "credible possibility" that Ukraine sent sophisticated radar systems to Iraq through an intermediary.
The team of 13 U.S. and British experts spent a week in Ukraine last month investigating whether the country sent any Kolchuha radar systems to Baghdad in violation of U.N. sanctions. Their findings, compiled in a 16-page report, were released by the U.S. Embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev on Monday.
The investigation came after the U.S. State Department said it had verified the authenticity of a July 2000 recording in which President Leonid Kuchma is allegedly heard approving the sale of a Kolchuha system to Iraq for $100 million.
Kuchma has strongly denied the allegations. Ukrainian officials were not available for comment late Monday.
In their report, the investigators said they had been unable to prove that Ukraine transferred radar systems to Iraq "under openly declared contracts," but said that "covert or illegal arms transfers, particularly with the complicity of third parties, remain a credible possibility."
The investigators, who weren't further identified by the embassy, said Ukraine had provided documentation on 72 Kolchuha systems but that four remain unaccounted for. Ukraine says it sold the four systems to China but refused investigators access to the contracts, claiming they were commercial secrets.
The investigators said Ukrainian officials refused to give them complete reports of their own internal investigations into the matter and said some officials had refused to answer key questions, especially concerning the role of the country's leadership.
The report concludes that Ukraine's export controls "lack sufficient safeguards to prevent senior officials or entities from misusing state organs or bypassing the system."
The radar allegations have soured Ukraine's relations with the U.S. and Europe. Washington suspended $54 million in aid to the government last month as part of a policy review and threatened more sanctions in the future.