JOHANNESBURG, 27 January (IRIN) -
Ukraine has again denied allegations that it has supplied weapons to Angola's
UNITA rebel movement, and instead said it is stepping up military cooperation
and arms shipments to the Luanda government.
First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Chalyy said Kiev had assured the UN Sanctions Committee on Angola that Ukraine has not and will not supply UNITA, the official news agency UNIAN reported on Wednesday.
But despite Ukraine's military equipment deals with Luanda, there have been persistent allegations that Ukrainian suppliers have also broken the international arms embargo on UNITA. On a visit to Kiev in July last year to discuss the accusations, Ambassador Robert Fowler, the chairman of the UN Sanctions Committee, reported that he had received "categorical assurances" from senior officials that Ukraine had not flouted the ban.
However, in August 1999, a Ukrainian-registered 'Azoz Avia' Iluyshin-76 was impounded in Zambia and the crew arrested by the Lusaka authorities for sanctions busting to UNITA. Last year, the London office of Human Rights Watch published a list of aircraft compiled by the United Nations that had entered UNITA-controlled territory without prior notification. The list included five Ukrainian-registered planes.
"It doesn't mean they were supplying UNITA, but the question is why were they there?" Human Rights Watch Angola analyst Alex Vines said. "There is nothing to suggest it is official Ukrainian government policy, but we know that Ukrainian planes are involved, as well as private individuals."
UNITA's airstrip at Andulo, one of its key bases in the central highlands, was long enough to receive flights directly from Europe. Despite the work of the UN Sanctions Committee on Angola to improve the implementation of sanctions, Vines told IRIN that it was the capture by government forces late last year of UNITA's strategic airfields that has done the most damage to the rebel movement's military capacity.
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