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Ukraine war: Scandal over inflated price of military jackets bought from Turkey

Ukrainian Ministry of Defence faces criticism after price of gear triples en route to country
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov shows a military uniform during a news conference in Kyiv, 28 August (Reuters)
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov displays a military uniform during a news conference in Kyiv, 28 August 2023 (Reuters)

A scandal has erupted in Ukraine after it was reported that the Ministry of Defence paid a hugely inflated price for an order of functionally useless jackets from Turkey.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian media reported that the ministry had acquired 233,000 winter jackets for $20m from a Turkish firm.

However, customs documentation for one of the shipments revealed that the cost for a batch of 4,900 jackets en route from Turkey to Ukraine had tripled, rising from $142,000 to $421,000.

It was also revealed that the jackets were lightweight rather than winter wear, as had been expected.

Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Nikolov, who first reported the scandal, said the situation was a "mess", with autumn on the way and his country mired in conflict.

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“Autumn is coming, and this is indeed a mess. The Ukrainians haven’t made any jackets. So back in the summer, these folks said they would bring us some Turkish crap,” he said in an interview with news outlet Ukrainska Pravda.

“Loads of cars arrived from Turkey, full of these jackets, which cost $28 when they left Turkey and $86 when they arrived. I’ve seen how these invoices changed along the way. The first invoice says ‘camouflage jacket’ and the last one - priced for $86 - says ‘winter jacket'.”

According to Ukrainska Pravda, the jackets were supplied by Vector Avia, a Turkish company co-owned by Ukrainian businessman Roman Pletnov.

Another co-owner of the company is Oleksandr Kasai, the nephew of Hennadii Kasai, an MP with Ukraine's Servant of the People party and a member of the parliamentary committee for national security, defence and intelligence.

'Ongoing investigation'

On 25 August, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that if the allegations were found to be true, he would resign.

A Ukrainian government source told Middle East Eye that the scandal had "nothing to do with Turkish companies selling overpriced materials.

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"Some Ukrainians don’t use regular channels, such as embassies, to make purchases because it diminishes the risk of corruption," they said.

"In this instance, there is an allegation that a company close to a Ukrainian MP purchased military jackets from the Turkish company on a regular price and sold it to the Defence Ministry with a propped-up price to make unjust profits. There is an ongoing investigation on the issue."

Turkey, a Nato member, has managed to retain cordial relations with both Russia and Ukraine over the past 18 months of the war, and last year helped to broker prisoner exchanges.

Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, have said prisoner exchanges will be one of the key topics of conversation when the latter meets with Vladimir Putin next month.

Turkey has not joined its western allies in imposing economic sanctions on Russia, but has meanwhile supplied arms to Ukraine and called for its sovereignty to be respected.

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