Wednesday, March 23, 2005

AS-15: Further Analysis

In the continuing story of the vanishing AS-15/Kh55 cruise missiles, it emerges thanks to the Ukrainian investigation and a commenter to this site that one Oleg Orlov is implicated in the affair of the missing missiles. Orlov is mentioned in a seminal UNSC report by the team around Johan Perelmans on arms trafficking into West Africa as an associate of Viktor Bout. Some reports suggest he is currently in Czech custody. Note, though, that an unrelated man of the same name is the well-known Russian human rights group Memorial's Chechnya spokesman (perhaps an instance of the Bout network's tendency to include supposed "Russian celebrities"?).

The Ukrainian government is now auditing the transfer of nuclear weapons to Russia amid fears that more stuff might be missing. Orlov's role in earlier years seems to have included buying arms in Bulgaria for African delivery - it would not be too wild to suggest that he acts as the upstream contact for the organisation.

In a document in the Ranter's files, taken from the accounts of Air Pass for 1998, there is a small mystery. Among the (gigantic) expense accounts run up by members of "VB's staff" against company funds, there is one for a man named only as "Dr. Oleg", who spent fearsome sums on mobile phone calls (suggesting an important person), and also drew sizeable amounts of money for the needs of several women whose relationship with him was not made clear. Could he be Orlov?

Note that the FT report also contains a brief mention of a statement that the missiles were handed over to the state arms export agency (Ukrspetsexport). This would not be at all surprising, as this organisation was implicated by practically all the UN Expert Panel reports in supplying arms via the Bout airlines. It's been suggested to me by a source that some of their products were used to arm Iraqi "loyalist paramilitaries".

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