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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 17:10 GMT
Cruise missile row rocks Ukraine
Ukrainian missiles on parade, 2000
Ukraine still has large ex-Soviet weapons stocks
Ukrainian arms dealers smuggled 18 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in 1999-2001, Ukraine's prosecutor-general has said.

The Soviet-era Kh-55 missiles - also known as X-55s - have a maximum range of 2,500km (1,550 miles). They are launched by long-range bombers.

Official Ukrainian state bodies were not involved in the sales, the prosecutor-general's office said.

It added that the missiles were not exported with nuclear warheads.

Investigation under way

The Kiev Court of Appeals is examining the case, and "a few Ukrainian and Russian citizens are suspects," the statement said.

Soviet-era air-launched missile
Nuclear or conventional warhead
First test flight - 1976
Max range - 2,500km
Cruising speed - mach 0.8
Length - 6.04m
Launch weight - 1,210kg
Ukraine reportedly had 1,612 X-55s in 1991
Source: Jane's defence information
The smuggling happened while Leonid Kuchma was president of Ukraine. His administration was voted out of office in December.

The Financial Times reports that the missiles could reach Japan if fired from mainland Asia or Israel if fired from Iran.

Ukraine reportedly had 1,612 of the missiles after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

It had agreed to return 575 of them to Russia, and the rest were to be scrapped under a US-funded disarmament programme.

The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, is designed to carry a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield.

Ukrainian First Deputy Defence Minister Leonid Polyakov said there were no indications yet that any Ukrainian Defence Ministry officials were involved in selling the missiles.

And Ukraine's State Export Control Service said it did not authorise any sales of long-range cruise missiles to Iran or China.

The US suspects that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is purely for civilian purposes.

Country profile: Ukraine
02 Mar 05 |  Country profiles
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18 Jan 05 |  Americas


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