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Busted In Ukraine
by James Dunnigan
July 2, 2012

A Ukraine court recently sentenced two North Korean trade officials (without diplomatic immunity) to eight years prison, each, for attempting to bribe Ukrainian officials to provide access to classified technology on large rocket engines. Before 1991, when Ukraine was part of Russia, many rocket and missile plants and research institutes were in Ukraine. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the newly free Ukraine inherited those operations. Some research and manufacturing still goes on, for foreign customers (like Russia and China). The North Koreans either found the prices too high or simply thought they could get away with stealing.

Since the 1990s, North Korea has often used Ukrainian firms for legal and illegal arms deals. Ukraine was desperate to keep as much of its Soviet era defense industries operational as it could. As legitimate arms deals increased, the Ukrainian government began leaning on local firms to shut down their illegal operations, especially with pariah states like North Korea and Iran. Prosecuting these two North Korean officials was a way to show the world that Ukraine wants to play by the rules now.


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