Nato and EU states are pushing for better tracking of weapons they have supplied to Ukraine in response to fears that criminal groups are smuggling them back out of the country and on to Europe’s black market.
Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine, western states have pledged more than $10bn in military support, from portable rocket launchers and armoured vehicles to rifles and vast amounts of ammunition.
A number of Nato member states are discussing with Kyiv some form of tracking system or detailed inventory lists for weapons supplied to Ukraine, two western officials briefed on the talks told the Financial Times.
Ukraine’s government is setting up a more extensive weapons monitoring and tracing system with the help of western countries, a third person familiar with the situation said.
“All these weapons land in southern Poland, get shipped to the border and then are just divided up into vehicles to cross: trucks, vans, sometimes private cars,” said one of the western officials. “And from that moment we go blank on their location and we have no idea where they go, where they are used or even if they stay in the country.”
The potential for US weapons sent to Ukraine to fall into the wrong hands is “among a host of considerations” given the “challenging situation” on the ground in the country, said Bonnie Denise Jenkins, US under secretary for arms control and international security, on Tuesday.
“The US very seriously takes our responsibility to protect American origin defence technologies and prevent their diversion or illicit proliferation,” Jenkins told reporters in Brussels, adding that the US was in “continued contact” with Kyiv on the issue.
“We are confident in the Ukrainian government’s commitment to appropriately safeguard and account for US [weapons],” Jenkins added.
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, said: “Any movement of weaponry either into Ukraine or out of Ukraine — when such movement is required for repairs when necessary — is very closely monitored and supervised both by Ukraine and our international partners.”
The issue of arms trafficking from Ukraine was discussed at a meeting of EU interior ministers this week, while on Monday the European Commission launched an “EU Support Hub” in neighbouring Moldova to provide expertise and co-operation to combat issues such as weapons smuggling.
“It’s hard to avoid trafficking or smuggling — we didn’t achieve it in former Yugoslavia and probably won’t avoid it in Ukraine,” Jana Černochová, the Czech defence minister, told reporters in Prague on Friday. She said she trusted that donor countries were taking all necessary steps to track weaponry but warned that it would not be possible to follow every item.
Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said in April that its investigations indicated that weapons trafficking from Ukraine into the bloc to supply organized crime groups had begun and was a potential threat to EU security.
“The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in the proliferation of a significant number of firearms and explosives in the country,” Europol said in a briefing note sent to governments.
“Initially, Ukrainian officials maintained registers of firearms handed out to civilians, but this practice was abandoned as the war progressed and firearms have been distributed without records since then,” it said, calling for “a register of weapons and other military materials transferred from the EU to Ukraine” to help law enforcement agencies track them.
“Information that Ukraine is becoming a major hub for arms smuggling does not correspond to reality,” said Sak, suggesting that those claiming such “could be part of Russia’s information war to discourage international partners from providing Ukraine with weaponry that is necessary for our victory”.
Shock claim from the former Pentagon adviser: Ukraine sells Western weapons on the black market!
Karen Kwiatkowski, a former adviser to the US Department of Defense, said that Ukraine is selling Western-sourced weapons on the black market due to a lack of training, logistical problems and the shrinking of its armed forces.
“Given that these materials are ‘free’, not needed or easily used, huge profits can be made by selling them. Ukraine’s ability to use these ‘gifts’ is limited by lack of training, logistical difficulties and the dwindling size of the Ukrainian military,” Kwiatkowski said.”
Previously, it was said that Ukraine has become a ‘grey zone’ for arms smuggling, foreign soldiers and neo-Nazi gangs have begun to leave the country and begin to dispose of weapons given by NATO member states. It was among the information that terrorist groups from various parts of the world procure weapons cheaply and that the PKK is after weapons.
Stating that some of the outgoing materials are missing and other equipment cannot be adapted to Ukraine’s war strategy, Kwiatkowski ironically added that some of these weapons will probably fall into the hands of Russia and its allies.
Kiwatkowski, predicting that Ukraine will eventually sell even the weapons it can use, continued:
“More effective US-supplied weapons, such as anti-tank Javelin missiles, high-mobility M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS multi-barrel rocket systems, will likely start appearing on the black market once the Ukrainians decide to negotiate a ceasefire and agreement with Moscow.”