Pirates shine spotlight on Ukraine’s arms-trafficking trade

KIEV, October 2, 2008 (AFP) – The pirate hijacking of a Ukrainian cargo ship loaded with tanks off Somalia has refocused attention on arms-trafficking by the former Soviet republic, one of the world’s 10 biggest arms exporters. Experts say Ukraine has greatly improved arms-export controls after a string of scandals but remains a potential source of weapons for pariah states and rebel groups worldwide, in an embarrassment to Kiev’s pro-West government.

“Ukraine has made significant steps in recent years towards improving its control over arms exports,” Paul Holtom, an expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said in a statement this week.

“But if it wants to be regarded as a responsible arms exporter, it needs to be confident that these arms will not be diverted to rebel groups for use in conflict.”

Controversy erupted over Ukraine’s arms export business Monday when the US Navy charged that the T-72 tanks aboard the MV Faina, the ship seized by Somali pirates, were headed for Sudan rather than Kenya as initially believed.

Both Ukraine and Kenya denied the allegation, but the pirates themselves — who are demanding 20 million dollars in ransom amid a standoff with US Navy