On the morning of March 6, Valery Malev, the director of Ukrspetseksport–the Ukrainian state arms trading company–was killed in a car accident in Poltava Region. Malev, a former minister for the machine-building and military-industrial complex, had served as Ukrspetseksport director since 1998. He had also been a member of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) since 1996.
The police have launched a criminal investigation. One preliminary conclusion maintains that Malev fell asleep behind the wheel, entered the opposite lane and crashed into a heavy truck. Ukrspetseksport said that Malev was returning from an urgent trip to Zaporizhya but did not reveal the reason for it. For its part, the Interior Ministry denied that the crash might have been deliberately engineered.
Over the past several years, there have been a suspiciously high number of car accidents involving top Ukrainian figures. In 1999, Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil died in similar circumstances after crashing into a truck. In 2000, Borys Marusych, director of Ukrinmash company, which was also reportedly involved in arms trade, was killed in a traffic accident. In 2000, NSDC Secretary Yevhen Marchuk was seriously injured. This past December, Volodymyr Lytvyn, chief of the presidential office, was also involved in a car accident. In January, Yulia Tymoshenko, an ardent presidential oppositionist, was as well. Despite Ukrspetsekport’s warning against using Malev’s death “for political speculation,” speculation has therefore been rampant.
The media linked to tycoon Andry Derkach, the son of former Security Service Chief Leonid Derkach, are using Malev’s death in their ongoing campaign against Marchuk. Mutual accusations of involvement in illegal arms deals have been flying between the two since last year (see the Monitor, January 8). On March 6, Versii.com reported that Malev had almost persuaded President Leonid Kuchma to make his company the only entity authorized to trade in arms in Ukraine. This would have put Malev in control of all the arms trade deals. Versii speculated, without supplying any proof, that this would have damaged Marchuk’s clout in the halls of power.
On March 7, Oleksandr Zhyr, chairman of the ad-hoc parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, fingered Kuchma. Zhyr told the parliament that one of the tapes allegedly recorded by former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in Kuchma’s office contained evidence of the president’s involvement in illegal arms trading. Zhyr said that his commission obtained this information only recently, and that Kuchma had learned about it a couple of days before Malev’s crash. The commission, Zhyr concluded, therefore cannot be sure that Malev’s death was an accident. This was only one in a series of grave accusations made against Kuchma in the Rada recently [see previous story] (Forum, March 6-7; Versii.com, March 6; Unian, Interfax-Ukraine, March 7).
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