Tripoli, 12 May:
The Kiev-based newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda said Friday that the Ukrainian authorities are refusing Libyan demands they return one of Qaddafi’s private . . .[restrict]aircraft unless Libya releases 20 Ukrainian prisoners held on charges of being Qaddafi mercenaries during last year’s uprising.
The plane, an Antonov An-74 specially built for Qaddafi in 2009, is worth $25 million. It was sent back to the Ukraine for servicing last year before the revolution broke out.
A Ukrainian government spokesman who still refers to the NTC as “rebels”, said “the rebels demand that we hand it over to them, but we want them to pay for the service first and release the Ukrainians”.
He indicated that the Libyan government had in fact responded to Ukraine’s demands. “We have a normal, calm dialogue, bargaining, if you will.”
The 20 Ukrainians, along with two Russians and three Belarusians, were arrested last August and changed in September.
A fourth court hearing into their case was held last week in Tripoli at which prosecutors and defense lawyers submitted new evidence. As a result the case was further adjourned until 21 May.
It was reported yesterday in the Ukrainian press that one of the Russian defendants, 59-year-old Alexander Shadrov, had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene. Shadrov said that he did not expect a fair trial and that although the Russian embassy was trying to help, it did not have any power to do so. He said that Russian diplomats had not attended last week’s court hearing.