Are we headed for WWIII?
Russia denies sale of sensitive military equipment to Iraq
By Jim Heintz, Associated Press, 3/24/03
MOSCOW -- Russia on Monday denied it had sold sensitive military equipment to Iraq in violation of U.N. saction -- items that reportedly included anti-tank guided missiles, night-vision goggles and jamming devices.
"The Russian Federation is not delivering weapons or weapons systems to Iraq and strictly observes all U.N. Security Council resolutions passed with regard to Iraq," Alexei Volin, deputy head of staff for the government, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that three Russian companies were involved in military equipment sales. U.N. sanctions have allowed Iraq only to import goods approved by the oil-for-food program.
The U.S. State Department said it had raised the issue with senior Russian officials several times, particularly over the past two weeks, because the equipment could pose a direct threat to coalition forces.
Volin called the allegations "not only groundless, but absolutely invented."
Also Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Iraq to obey international conventions on the humane treatment of prisoners of war after 12 American soldiers were ambushed and believed captured or killed.
Putin told top Cabinet ministers that he had asked the Foreign Ministry "to appeal to Iraq with an urgent request to comply with these particular rules."
The Post identified two of the firms that allegedly sold equipment as KBP Tula and Aviaconversiya, a Moscow-based company. It said KBP supplied antitank guided missiles and Aviaconversiya provided jamming devices.
Aviaconversiya director Oleg Antonov denied the claim, saying on Echo of Moscow radio that "we have never delivered anything to Iraq."
He said the allegation was "conjecture resulting from the fact that tests of high-precision armaments revealed the total loss of their efficiency against our jamming."
The deputy director of Tula's instrument design office, Leonid Roshal, also denied the report, according to the news agency ITAR-Tass.
A spokesman for Russia's arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, said his organization "100 percent definitely had nothing to do with any sales and we have no information that such sales took place."
Rosoboronexport is the sole state intermediary for Russian military exports and imports.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Moscow said on condition of anonymity that Moscow's response to the allegations "so far hasn't been satisfactory."
"We hope that the responsible Russian agencies will take our concerns seriously," he said.