4 x 4 ‘bribe’ allegations over Yushchenko arms scandal
Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, sold weapons to Georgia with a 20% discount in exchange for two luxury Land Rover cars, according to a parliamentary inquiry. The accusations over the gifts, worth $100,000 each, were made by Valeryi Konovalyuk, the head of the inquiry committee which is attached to the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada. Yushchenko has denied the allegations.
In an interview with the Russian daily “Izvestia”, Konovalyuk said that, according to his sources, the Land Rovers were received as prepayment for a weapons’ transaction two and a half years ago. But information about the deal has only just emerged and, according to Konovalyuk, severely taints the president's credibility.
Yushchenko's press secretary, Irina Vannikova, released a statement saying the Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, has never given the Ukrainian president Land Rovers as gifts.
However, according to the inquiry committee's sources, the president himself and his closest entourage currently drive the cars.
It’s alleged that attempts were made to legitimise the ownership of the 4 x 4 cars after the story emerged. This could be achieved through tying the cars to a government organisation.
The investigation into the legitimacy of Ukraine's arms trade with Georgia opened on the 2nd of September - on the same day that the governing coalition in the Rada broke down.
Since that day, Konovalyuk has made multiple accusations against the Ukrainian government. He claimed, for example, that the president secured several illegal arms deals with the Georgian side and continued to supply the Georgian army even after the August conflict in the Caucasus began.
The investigation was partially provoked by Russian and South Ossetian claims that Ukraine supplied the Georgian army during the August conflict. Konovalyuk, whilst summing up his investigatory visit to Georgia and South Ossetia, said: "We have seen Ukrainian military technology on the site, which has been left there by the Georgian army. We have received information regarding Ukrainian specialists who have participated in military action on the Georgian side."
The president and his cabinet have never denied selling weapons to Georgia, pointing out that the arms trade between the two was never banned, and was conducted within the framework of international law. Nevertheless, the presidential office remains adamant that there were never any illegal actions within Ukraine's military transactions with Georgia.