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Ukrainian Missiles Go Wrong In New Test

KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's antiaircraft units have held their first missile tests in the Crimea peninsula since a Russian passenger plane was shot down in 2001 and two of the latest tests went wrong.

Defense Ministry spokesman Ihor Khalyavinsky told Reuters that one missile exploded on launch and a second veered off from its planned trajectory and self-destructed during tests this week. No one was hurt.

"These were testing launches. We are trying to squeeze as much as possible out of what we have," he said. "Nine of 11 tests were normal...These missiles are at least 20 years old."

Military chiefs and President Viktor Yushchenko have repeatedly lamented poor financing for the army, saying funds allocated serve only to pay soldiers and provide for no new purchases of arms or equipment.

Debate on funding has intensified since Russia's military advance into Georgia in August.

"We should not be firing these missiles, but tossing them on the scrap heap," Khalyavinsky said. "We have piles of junk in our storage areas. No one is buying what we need."

He said the tests were made with BUK-M1, C-200, and C-300 missile systems as part of the largest exercises conducted for years in Crimea, on Ukraine's southern tip.

The Ukraine has banned tests in the peninsula since 2001, when a wayward missile hit a Russian Tu-154 airliner flying from Israel to Siberia, killing all 78 people on board.

Ukraine's Security Council, which Yushchenko chairs, last month ordered an increase in the 2009 budget allocation to the equivalent of $6.5 billion against the government's proposed $2.88 billion.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says the government has proposed at least a tripling of budget expenditure on the military next year.