The secretary of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, Yevhen Marchuk, is again having a difficult time fending off accusations of illegal arms trade. Late last year, the media linked to Marchuk’s rival Andry Derkach, son of former Security Service chief Leonid Derkach, reported that Marchuk might be involved in illegal arms deals in the former Yugoslavia (see the Monitor, January 8). Marchuk flatly denied this. But now he is in a more difficult situation. Ukraine’s chief prosecutor has apparently taken the accusations seriously and launched a probe. Marchuk may also have problems with the Italian justice system.
On March 5, a court in Turin, Italy, pronounced Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Streshynsky guilty of selling arms to Yugoslavia in 1992-1994, in violation of UN sanctions. Marchuk was mentioned in the verdict as a suspected organizer of an international crime ring involved in illegal arms deals. Derkach’s media jumped at the opportunity to attack Marchuk again. Versii.com and the newspaper Kievsky Telegraph have been the only mainstream media to extensively comment on the Turin verdict. They also appealed to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to dismiss Marchuk. “After the Turin court verdict, Mr. Marchuk has no moral right to stay in office,” the editors of Kievsky Telegraf, Versii.com and Era TV wrote in an open letter to Kuchma on March 7. In a TV interview the same day, Marchuk denied the charges and accused the Derkach family of foul play. In a March 12 newspaper interview, Marchuk also denied that the car crash, in which the director of Ukrspetseksport arms trading company, Valery Malev, died last week, might have been deliberately engineered (see the Monitor, March 11).
On March 8, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry publicized a letter by Marcello Maddalena, the prosecutor of Turin, to the Ukrainian embassy saying that no charges have been brought against Marchuk. “Italy’s prosecution has thus closed the subject of Marchuk’s alleged involvement in illegal arms trade,” Studio 1+1 TV, which sympathizes with Marchuk, commented. Marchuk has tried to sell this as his acquittal and threatened to sue Derkach’s media. But the matter is not as simple as Marchuk might like to think. Any criminal charge is preceded by investigation. According to the Turin verdict, an investigation into Marchuk’s involvement in illegal arms trade is under way in Italy.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has also launched a probe. Addressing journalists on March 12, Prosecutor General Mykhaylo Potebenko said that Ukraine had received documents on a relevant investigation from Italy. “These materials and the investigation conducted in Ukraine show that Marchuk did not commit crime,” he said. At the same time, Potebenko admitted that he could not “give a 100 percent guarantee” that Marchuk had not been involved in the illegal trading. Meanwhile, Oleksandr Zhyr, a people’s deputy who had accused Kuchma of serious misdeeds last week in parliament (see the Monitor, March 11), warned that more names of Ukrainian officials would emerge during the course of the Italian probe.
Studio 1+1 launched a counteroffensive against Derkach. On March 10, it alleged that Derkach’s business partner, Ukrainian-Israeli tycoon Vadim Rabinovich, was selling arms to the Taliban. Similar allegations had been made earlier by Russian MP Viktor Ilyukhin and Germany’s Spiegel magazine (see the Monitor, January 14). Studio 1+1 mentioned Derkach’s name in this connection, but carefully avoided accusing him directly. This message was received by a far wider audience than were the accusations against Marchuk, given that Studio 1+1 is more popular than all of Derkach’s outlets taken together. Rabinovich threatened to sue 1+1 (Versii.com, March 6, 11; Interfax-Ukraine, March 7, 12; Studio 1+1, March 8, 10; MIGnews, March 11; Segodnya, March 12).
Kuchma and Premier Anatoly Kinakh, meanwhile, have flatly denied the allegations about illegal arms trade and sided with Marchuk. This reaction was predictable, given that more than Marchuk’s personal reputation is at stake. Kuchma, speaking to journalists on March 14, said that the accusations against Marchuk were “absurd.” On March 15, Kinakh publicly rebuked Andry Derkach for his campaign against Marchuk. He warned against “settling political scores, even in conditions of political competition.” Marchuk is linked to the United Social Democrats, a party competing for the same centrist progovernment electorate with the For United Ukraine bloc, to which the Derkachs belong (New Channel TV, March 14; Unian, March 15).
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