Ukraine Officials Praise Sale of Tanks to Pakistan

KIEV -- Ukraine's sale of more than 300 tanks to Pakistan shows its capacity to exploit the huge military complex inherited from the Soviet era to outscore big rivals on international arms markets, government officials say.

"This is a victory. But we will only see the final victory in four years when we have delivered all the tanks," Viktor Zabara, first deputy minister for the military complex and conversion, said in an interview Thursday.

"The fact that Ukraine won this difficult tender over several years shows our technical and intellectual capacity."

The deal to supply the T-80UD tanks, worth $550 million, was signed Tuesday in Islamabad. It circumvented sanctions imposed by the United States, which accuses Pakistan of harboring ambitions of becoming a nuclear state.

Ukraine is seeking out customers for its armor to haul its economy out of crisis.

Ukrainian news agencies announced last month that a deal had been clinched to supply a new 6.5-ton military truck to India -- Pakistan's archrival, with which it has fought three border wars since becoming a nation in 1947.

Last year Ukraine supplied 300 10-ton trucks to India, long a traditional purchaser of Soviet equipment. New Delhi's army retains strong links with Russian suppliers.

Another deal was announced to provide Sri Lanka's air force with four Antonov An-32 military transport planes, ostensibly to boost the campaign against Tamil separatists in the Indian Ocean island's Jaffna peninsula.

Still another deal was signed with Egypt to repair 10 MiG-21 fighter aircraft supplied during the Soviet era.

But the Pakistan deal was the real plum, with Ukraine outmaneuvering some of the world's most experienced arms manufacturers.

"China was a particularly strong rival and Russia proposed its T-80 model," Zabara said. "Our tanks won out because they have engines Russia can't produce which are ideal for Pakistan's intense heat and desert conditions.