Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, believes "the United States' aggression against Iraq is going to happen." One testament to that, he contended, is the fact that the US "has launched all the necessary elements of preparation for a military operation." He opined that the one thing that could have forestalled the onset of military action was a coordinated stance of nations such as France and Germany, but he said, "there's no discernible coordination of these states' actions." The expert suggested that the timescale for the launch of the US military operation "may have shifted until a few days or even weeks later on account of the Columbia shuttle disaster." He argued that the mission was intended to carry out "intelligence tasks capable of bolstering the argument for possible action against Iraq." Furthermore, he alleged, the Columbia mission was used for "input of programs for cruise missile flights and aviation action against Iraq." The consequence of the Iraq war may be "a radical change of the international security system," warned Ivashov. He argued that whether the United Nations Security Council in its present form will survive the war is already a question mark; if indeed it does, "what are its functions going to be in the future?" He speculated that one possibility involved the Security Council "remaining a body for legitimizing the actions of the strong against the weak on the world scene." Overall, pointed out Ivashov, who once headed the international directorate at the Russian General Staff, in the event that war begins in Iraq, international relations are set to lapse into "a state of chaos."
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Eyewitnesses said that explosions could be heard in the centre of Kyiv. Smoke was seen rising above Zhuliany Airport (Kyiv International Airport)