World » Former USSR
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Ukraine blames Russia for the loss of shoulder-fired missiles

The news about the loss of the shoulder-fired missile system has caused a slight commotion in the Ukrainian Army

The shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system Strela-3, which has been lost in Ukraine, as the Ukrainian Navy command supposes, was handed over to Ukraine in 1996. According to the statement from the press service of the Russian Black Sea Navy, the system was handed over to the Ukrainian Navy on the base of adequate documents, signed by Ukrainian officials. 

Mass media outlets published the statement from the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Vice Admiral Igor Knyaz, last Wednesday. The Ukrainian naval commander believes that the Strela-3 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system and two missiles to it were probably lost during the time, when a part of the Russian Black Sea Navy property was handed over to Ukraine. It is noteworthy that Igor Knyaz released the statement a day before the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement in Bratislava to toughen the control over shoulder-fired missiles.

”The command of the Russian Black Sea Navy would like to express its regret in connection with the absolutely ungrounded statement from the administration of the Ukrainian Navy,” Itar-Tass quoted the press service of the Russian Navy.

It is not clear, though, why the doors of the warehouse, from which the above-mentioned anti-aircraft system and two missiles disappeared, had their seals removed. Furthermore, it is not clear, why the Ukrainian authorities found the system missing only eight years after it was “lost.” Spokespeople for the Russian Navy have not released any comments on those nuances.

The incident occurred early in the morning on February 22nd. A Strela-3 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system and two missiles disappeared from a military warehouse of the Ukrainian Navy. The loss was found after an urgent stock inspection was carried out at several warehouses. It was decided to conduct the inspection after a sentry frightened two strangers off the guarded territory. The sentry checked the doors of the warehouse and found that the seal on the gate of one of the warehouses was removed, whereas the doors of another warehouse had the lock missing.

The office of the Military Prosecutor and the Ukrainian Security Service started investigating the incident; a criminal case was filed too.

The news about the loss of the shoulder-fired missile system has caused a slight commotion in the Ukrainian Army. Igor Matviyenko, Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Navy, visited the site of the incident and chaired the special committee, which had been formed to investigate it.

The portable anti-aircraft missile complex Strela-3 was developed in the USSR in the beginning of the 1960s. The system was added to the military arsenal in 1968 and was modified in 1974. The system shoots missiles at the distance of 3.5-4 kilometers. The weapon can be used to down low-flying aircrafts, as they land or take off, for example.

Russian Armed Forces replaced the outdated Strela-3 complex with the Igla shoulder-fired missile system. The Strela complex is not viewed as an efficient weapon to down military planes now. However, the weapon can destroy helicopters and passenger planes.

Warehouses of the Russian Armed Forces and many other states of the former USSR have Strela complexes stored at their warehouses. They often become objects of theft. Ten Strela-1 systems were stolen in Russia's Leningrad region in July of 2003. The region's Office of the Military Prosecutor solved the case the same month: a suspect was arrested, and the ten missing complexes were returned to the warehouse.

Another similar incident occurred in October of 2004 in Georgia. The case is still unsolved.