Libya and Ukraine are reportedly bargaining over a posh aircraft that Tripoli hopes to get in exchange for the release of 20 Ukrainians being held in Libya. They are facing execution for allegedly serving as technicians in Muammar Gaddafi’s military.
The Ukrainians, who arrived into Libya amid the bloody civil war in 2011, insist that they were civilian workers hired by a Libyan company Dakara and had nothing to do with Gaddafi’s army.
“Colonel Gaddafi had a contract with our country to repair his Antonov aircraft. We still have one of the airliners stored at the Gostomel Airport. The rebels demand that we hand it over to them, but we want them to pay for the service first and release the Ukrainians,” a source close to the negotiations told Ukrainian Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
“We have a normal, calm dialogue, bargaining, if you will. Stay calm,” the source, who has links to Ukraine’s foreign intelligence, added. He assured that the people on the Libyan side with considerable clout regarding the trial have much to win if they get the aircraft from Ukraine.
“Whoever has such a big vehicle will not only win respect at home, but will also be entitled to have a senior position in the government,” he explained.
The plane in question is apparently the luxury Antonov An-74, which was build for Gaddafi under a special order in 2009, the newspaper says. The estimated price of the aircraft, complete with gold and gemstone-decorated cabin, is 25 million dollars. It was just one of many items among the fabled pool of Gaddafi’s cars, pleasure boats and aircraft.
Libya has held a total of 25 ex- Dakara employees, including 20 Ukrainians, two Russians and three Belarusians, since August 2011. Initially they were said to be “Gaddafi’s snipers” but later the charges against them were changed. Respective governments are engaged with Libya’s current authorities over the fates of their citizens.