Russia is waging an `information war` against Ukraine to try to push it out of lucrative arms markets, the head of Ukraine`s main arms export agency was quoted as saying on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

In comments posted on the Ukrainian president`s Web site, Serhiy Bondarchuk said Russian allegations that Ukraine had made illegal arms sales, specifically to Georgia, were aimed at trying to secure control over key markets.

`Russia has launched an unprecedented, large-scale information war on Ukraine,` Bondarchuk, head of the Ukrspetsexport agency, said in a statement.

`Although Russia is formally our strategic partner, it is also trying, through rough and often dirty means, to compete with Ukraine on the key sections of today`s arms market.`

He said this was reflected in the recent `wave of hysteria` of allegations that Ukraine had supplied arms illegally to Georgia. Russia fought Georgia in a five-day war in August.

Ukraine mainly exports Soviet-designed tanks, transport aircraft, naval ships and armoured personnel carriers. Bondarchuk has previously said Ukraine is the world`s sixth largest arms exporter with $700 million of sales in 2007.

Bondarchuk made his comments a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev criticised U.S. sanctions against Moscow over alleged sales of sensitive technology that could help Iran, North Korea and Syria develop dangerous weapons.

Medvedev dismissed those sanctions as `short-sighted` amounting to `unscrupulous competition` aimed at cutting Russia off from markets. He also reiterated the Kremlin`s complaints that the West, and some of its ex-Soviet allies like Ukraine, were selling offensive weapons to Georgia.

In his comments, Bondarchuk said Ukraine, Russia and other states `had actively sold arms to Georgia over the last 10 years`.

Russian troops thrust into Georgia in August after Georgian forces attempted to retake the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia.

`The only illegal issue here concerns the unrecognised separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,` he said. `And this is an issue to put to Russia – how and why did modern modern weapons end up there, clearly in amounts disproportionate to the population.`

Bondarchuk and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied that Ukraine supplied arms illegally to Georgia, which is led, like Ukraine, by a pro-Western president committed to joining the NATO alliance. Russia denounces NATO expansion to its ex-Soviet states as a threat to its own security.


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