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A leaked 2009 cable from the US embassy in Kiev says that Washington successfully petitioned the Ukrainian government to stop selling arms to the Burmese military.
“[The Ukraine] had received the US demarche and was no longer exporting weapons to Burma”, said the 11 September 2009 cable, released on Monday by the whistleblower website, Wikileaks.
The Ukrainians have had a solid arms dealing history with Burma, described in the cable as “deliberate Ukrainian government actions that are contrary to US philosophy on exports”, despite the US being the world’s largest arms dealer.
Ukrainian weapons assistance for the pariah Southeast Asian state includes help for the Myanmar Integrated Air Defence System (MIADS), which has also been aided by Chinese and Russian input.
According to Amnesty International, Kiev signed a $US500 million contract in 2004 to supply some 1000 BTR-3U light-armoured personnel carriers (APC) to Burma, the same year that state-owned UkrSpetsExport set up office in a Rangoon hotel.
The APCs compliment an alleged 2003 deal for a consignment of Soviet T-72 battle tanks, which the cable claims the Ukrainians have stopped selling to southern Sudan “despite US satellite photos to the contrary.”
Benjamin Zawacki, Burma researcher at Amnesty International, told DVB that “there is no way of verifying whether or not the Ukrainians have indeed ceased selling arms…and we certainly have anecdotal information that that this hasn’t happened”.
Amnesty also alleges that Ukraine assisted in the construction of a small arms-producing factory in Burma, while the cable expresses concern about Ukrainian “specialty steel” exports to Iran for missile technology.
It reports however that Kiev told the US in 2008 that “Ukrainian exports to Burma were ‘as good as zero’ in part due to previous US warnings, and Ukraine had not signed any new contracts with Burma in the last two and a half years. Current exports were just spare parts. The remaining business was so small that the company involved had recalled all of its workers from Burma”.
Amnesty indicates however that Ukraine is, along with China, Russia, Serbia and Singapore, one of the top five arms dealers to the Burmese junta. But this is by no means an exclusive group, as countries such as Israel, Pakistan and India all add to the list.
“We certainly welcome it if it were true but I greet it with some scepticism,” Zawacki says. “But I would love to see some sort of official statement to that effect.”