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LITHUANIA A TRANSIT POINT FOR HEROIN. The Lithuanian Drug Trade Investigation Division has confirmed that heroin is entering the country in increasing quantities. The drugs are brought in from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan while heroin refined in Ukraine is being exported through Lithuania to Scandinavian countries. This is the first mention of Ukraine being used as a refining point in the drug trade. According to RFE/RL sources in Ukraine, much of the heroin from Central Asia is brought to Ukraine by Crimean Tartars. Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies claim they have no evidence of refineries in the Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine.
KUCHMA BLAMES BALTIC BANKS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma created something of an incident when he blamed banks in the Baltic countries of being a "corridor" for money laundering. The statement was made at an anticorruption symposium in Kyiv in October. The Latvian foreign minister quickly responded, expressing his "surprise," while the Latvian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the charges are unfounded if President Leonid Kuchma had Latvia in mind.
UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL MURDERED. Oleksa Romashko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Securities Commission and head of the commission's inspections department, was found murdered in the hallway of his apartment building on the morning of 29 October. He had been stabbed twice and reportedly had a gunshot wound to the head. Romashko was involved in investigating the circumstances surrounding the state sales of Donbasenergo, Donetskoblenergo, and Luhanskoblenergo, three regional energy-supply companies that had been scheduled for privatization but were prevented from sale by Romashko's inspections department. The Prosecutor's Office said it is considering the possibility that it was a contract killing. Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko had made it a part of her program to privatize those regional energy companies, but this was strongly resisted by members of parliament from the so-called "oligarch" factions. When Tymoshenko was forced out and arrested on corruption charges stemming from her past role in United Energy Systems of Ukraine, the regional energy companies were put on the block but sold for suspiciously low prices. Romashko began an investigation into the matter, but his death has halted the investigation, for the time being.
PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER'S BODYGUARD AND DRIVER FOUND DEAD. The deaths of parliamentary Speaker Ivan Plyushch's driver, Oleksandr Skliar, and his bodyguard, Pavlo Poteryako, were reported on 22 October. Their bodies were found in a Kyiv park. The Russian news agency Novosti reported that both had been shot dead, while Ukrainian health officials stated that both men had died of either heart attacks or alcohol poisoning. The Kyiv city morgue gave a preliminary diagnosis of death due to heart attack. The Ukrainian Interior Minister, Yuriy Smirnov, stated in an interview for the daily newspaper "Fakty" that, "There is no crime there, and no need for any investigation."
TV QUESTIONS OFFICIAL VERSION OF KILLING. Ukrainian state television questioned the official version of the death of journalist Ihor Oleksandrov in a 25-minute film aired on 28 October. The government's version of the murder of Oleksandrov was presented by Prosecutor General Mykhaylo Potebenko, who said that Oleksandrov was murdered by a homeless man who mistook him for Oleksandrov's lawyer, Oleksandr Omelyanov. The TV program presented the views of two former police officers who had appeared on Oleksandrov's TV show in the past. They believed that the murder was committed by the same group which has committed contract killings in the region in recent years. It was also pointed out that any compromising materials on illegal activities in the Donetsk Region, videotapes, audio tapes, and computer disks had disappeared from Oleksandrov's home. Oleksandrov was known for his investigative reporting on corruption in the Internal Ministry (MVD) of Donetsk Oblast.
UKRAINIAN, SLOVAK, AND KYRGYZ CRIMINALS SHIP ARMS TO LIBERIA. A United Nations report released on 26 October documents in detail how Ukrainian, Slovak, and Kyrgyz criminals continue to systematically send huge shipments of arms to Liberia despite an arms embargo first imposed by the UN in 1992. "The arms flow into Liberia make a mockery of UN sanctions," said Joost Hiltermann, executive director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch. Among others implicated in this report is Odesa gangster Leonid Minin, presently under arrest in Italy for selling arms to Croatia during the UN embargo in 1993; Sergei Denisenko, a Russian citizen living in the United Arab Emirates; and Moldovan Victor Bout and his brother, Sergei. More details on this case will appear in the next issue of "CCT Watch."
Nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons have the potential to become the single greatest threat to humanity in the 21st century. A small batch of powerful, antibiotic-resistant biological weapons in the hands of any one of a myriad of terrorist organizations can create havoc unheard of in modern history. These are weapons which can be produced at relatively low cost (about $1.5 million); they are compact and can thus be distributed without ICBM delivery systems; and they can be highly effective.
The world's largest known stockpiles of biological weapons are in the United States, Russia, and Iraq.
But a strategically important stockpile with the innocuous name of Vozrozhdeniye, or "rebirth," has been located in Uzbekistan, on an island in the Aral Sea. That unguarded island was used as a biological-weapons testing site for Soviet scientists. Among the bio-weapons tested was the Soviet form of anthrax, designated as the 836 strain. This strain, according to Jonathan Tucker of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, is highly virulent and resistant to common antibiotics. The United States has agreed to help Uzbekistan clean up the cache of anthrax spores buried on the island, but this by itself is only one step in preventing such weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.
According to Tucker, there are 1,500 germ banks worldwide. And while many of them do not necessarily stockpile dangerous items, 46 are known to have stocks of anthrax bacilli. The former Soviet Union produced about two tons of anthrax a day at its facility in Stepanagorsk in Kazakhstan. For his part, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 18 October 2001, "We do not know for sure if bacteriological weapons were stored in Ukraine during Soviet times and, if they were, where they are now." According to the RFE/RL Bureau in Kyiv, no biological weapons are presently stored in Ukraine.
But stockpiles are only part of the problem. The other great danger comes from the illegal production of bio-weapons. Thousands of unemployed Russian scientists who worked for Biopreparat, which ran the Soviet Union's germ-warfare program and was disbanded in 1992, could be recruited to recreate the deadly strains. In recent testimony to a United States congressional committee, Ken Alibek, the deputy director of Biopreparat, stated that some 50 Russian scientists possessing secrets about anthrax production cannot be located.
A former UN bio-weapons inspector, David Franz, who had served as chief inspector in Iraq, recently stated that it is almost impossible to gauge the extent of Iraqi and Russian germ-warfare production today. In Iraq, bio-weapons factories are disguised as vaccine plants. Franz reported seeing an enormous plant in Russia which was producing liquid anthrax.
The smuggling of nuclear materials, including enriched uranium, has troubled law-enforcement officials ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dr. Paolo Sartori, chief of the Italian Interpol office in Bucharest, Romania, revealed in an interview for the Romanian press that Romania has become a transit route for nuclear and strategic materials from the Dniester region and Moldova. "During the last two years many traffickers of nuclear and strategic materials, such as white mercury and cobalt, have been identified and arrested in Romania," said Sartori. The Moldovan interior minister, Victor Catana, has also revealed that multiple organizedcrime networks and even intelligence services from various countries have been making arms deals in the Dniester region since August 1998. These deals include such weapons as plastic explosives and ground-to-air Stinger missiles.
Unconfirmed reports from Israel place the head of the so-called "Red Mafia," Semyon Mogilevitch, as having arranged a meeting in Marbella, Spain, between members of his organization with bin Laden associates. According to these Israeli sources, Western intelligence agencies are urging the Spanish police to crack down on such activities.
The arrest of four Georgian men with nearly four pounds of enriched Uranium 235 in their possession in July 2001 in Batumi (see "RFE/RL Corruption and Terrorism Watch," Vol. 1, No. 1) is an indicator that nuclear smuggling could be shifting to Central Asia. All indicators show that the poorly equipped and often corrupt police forces and intelligence services in the former Soviet bloc will not be able to handle the challenge of NBC smuggling alone.