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Want to buy a Bear? (Strategic bomber that is)

August 19, 2015

The Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has opened an investigation into the regime of former President Yanukovych for selling two “Bears” to person(s) unknown – Bears as in Tu-95 MS (Bear) strategic bombers.

Unbelievable?

They aren’t small or easily missed after all.

Tu-95 MS "Bear"

Tu-95 MS “Bear”

Well, sadly it is believable to anybody with access to, or moving within certain circles within Ukraine – both prior to, and during the Yanukovych term.

Unusual as it is for your author to recall personal incidents, one is about to be recited – simply to outline how illicitly flogging Ukrainian military hardware was not uncommon.

In 2007 several incidents occurred within a matter of weeks whereby those in the then Ukrainian government (indirectly/deniably) approached your author.

The first was an approach by a man from Dnepropetrovsk known to be very close to the leader of the then ruling Rada political block.  The approach consisted of an offer to sit in the Rada for the appropriate majority faction.  The fee, $5 million for a Rada seat with a discussed return of 3 or 4 times that “investment” for placement upon a Rada committee where signatures (with fees to be earned for signing documentation to recoup the investment) was available.  Failing that, the same deal with the same proportionate return was available at the Oblast level for a $100,000 “buy in”.

The offers were declined.

Shortly afterward, the same government was caught red handed by the USA attempting to sell tanks to a UN embargoed nation.  Closed door meetings were held.  Ukraine denied it, the US insisted.  Ukraine continued to deny it and the US produced satellite imagery of the tanks ready for loading.  The Ukrainian government folded and the tanks did not arrive with the UN embargoed nation.

A few days after this meeting between the US and Ukraine, your author received a telephone call from the same man who had offered a seat in the national or local Rada.  The question was “Do you know anybody who wants to buy 94 tanks?”

The answer was negative, although at the time your author was aware of somebody close to the former Suharto regime of Indonesia looking for helicopters.  Ukraine had no helicopters to sell, only tanks – and wanted to sell them as quickly as possible.

For the record, illicit arms trading goes well beyond the red lines of your author, raising more red moral flags than the number of red flags ever waved at the largest of Communist rallies during peak Soviet Union.

The point, however, is that the illicit sale of two  Tu-95 MS  “Bear” strategic bombers is entirely believable to your author.  That the prosecutor’s office thus far have no idea who the buyer(s) of these strategic bombers was/were is also not particularly surprising.

What makes it more believable is that the serial numbers of the two Tu-95 MS aircraft are known – 100211732386 and 1000212733144.  Both 1987 builds.  The sale of these bombers occurring in the autumn/winter of 2013.

Naturally these bombers were not in service when sold – somebody would surely have noticed that.

Thus, the prosecutor’s office will now be pouring over procurement/repair/transportation documentation at the Accounting Center for Surplus and Discarded Property of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the Mykolaiv Aircraft Repair Plant in attempts to find out the details – and try and  determine just who is now in possession of two Tu-95 MS  “Bear” strategic bombers that they shouldn’t have.

What prima facie appears to be “unbelievable” is in fact entirely believable.

What is perhaps less believable is that certain intelligence agencies outside of Ukraine are unaware of both the illicit transaction and the location of these rather large aircraft.  Even if they don’t know, one wonders how much, if any, assistance they may provide the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office in the investigation.

After all, strategic bombers unaccounted for is perhaps not only an issue for Ukraine, and the buyers market for strategic bombers will be well known to the intelligence agencies.

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