Cruise missiles were unofficially smuggled to Iran, says Ukraine


UKRAINE: Ukraine said yesterday that cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads had been "smuggled" out of the country to Iran, but denied they had been exported with official sanction.

The country's new liberal government, swept to power in January pledging to stamp out high-level corruption and forge closer ties with the West, said it would tighten controls on the export of technology with military use.

The Financial Times quoted Ukraine's prosecutor general as saying yesterday that Kiev authorities had sold missiles to Iran and China. The paper quoted prosecutor general Svyatoslav Piskun as saying 18 X-55 cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55s or AS-15s, were exported in 2001, when former president Leonid Kuchma was in power. But none was exported with nuclear warheads.

The US accuses Iran of trying to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear programme is only for power generation.

The X-55 has a range of some 3,000km (1,864 miles). Launched from Iran, it could reach Israel.

Mr Piskun's office described the Financial Times account as untrue, drawing a distinction between formal export and what he described as smuggling.

"At issue in this interview is not the export of missiles but rather smuggling," a prosecution statement said.

"The SBU [ security service] has launched a criminal case against the director of the Ukraviazakaz firm, V Yevdokimov, in this connection. This case has been examined since August 2004 by the Kiev regional appeal court in closed session."