To help counter the Russian invasion of part of its territory, Ukraine received a huge amount of weapons and equipment of all kinds, from assault rifles to anti-tank missiles and rocket launchers and other hand-held surface-to-air missiles [MANPADS]. And, based on the experience of past conflicts, it is to be feared that some of them will fall into the wrong hands. Such, in any case, the warning launched by Jürgen Stock, the director general of Interpol, last June.
“The wide availability of weapons during the current conflict will lead to the proliferation of illicit weapons in the post-conflict phase,” Stock said, urging donor countries to “trace” the weapons delivered to Ukrainian forces. “Criminals are already concentrating on this right now,” he added, saying that the European Union [UE] would become a “probable destination” for diverted weapons because their “black market prices are much higher in Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries”.
The director of Interpol had been right… Indeed, on October 30, an official from the National Bureau of Investigation [NBI] Finland told the national public radio-television Yle that criminal groups had seized weapons originally intended for Ukraine. “We have seen signs that these weapons have already found their way to Finland,” he said. And to question “biker gangs”, such as the “Bandidos MC”, established in major Ukrainian cities.
This phenomenon does not only concern Finland: three other countries of the European Union [UE]namely Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, would also be confronted with such traffic, which transits by sea.
However, in July, the EU had taken the lead with the establishment of a “support hub for internal security and border management” in Moldova in order, precisely, to prevent any arms trafficking.
Moreover, having promised kyiv military aid amounting, for the moment, to 18 billion dollars, the United States is also concerned to see the weapons delivered to the Ukrainian army being diverted… not necessarily by networks criminals but rather by the Russian forces and their auxiliaries.
“The seizure of Ukrainian weapons by Russian forces has been the main cause of diversion so far. And that could lead to subsequent transfers. […] Russia will probably also use these weapons to serve its propaganda […] or carry out operations under false flag “, thus explained the American diplomacy, in a note of information.
“The Ukrainian government is committed to protecting and properly accounting for the military equipment of American origin transferred to it”, she also recalled, stressing that such work is made difficult by the “chaotic” nature of the fighting. And to add: “The United States will continue to [l’] assist in counting and securing weapons, as security conditions permit”.
Hence the mobilization, on the ground, of soldiers assigned to the United States Embassy in Ukraine, to the defense attaché. Thus, according to General Pat Ryder, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, a “small team” carried out “multiple inspections” of equipment delivered to the Ukrainian forces “over the past two months at sites in Ukraine”. These, he continued, “are not close to the front lines”. Finally, he argued, there is, to date, “no evidence of widespread diversion of US aid.”
In addition, also clarified General Ryder, the Ukrainian authorities also provide reports on the losses and damage inflicted on the equipment provided. Finally, he also insisted on the fact that “no American force is carrying out combat operations in Ukraine”, the inspectors being personnel “assigned to security cooperation and assistance, with the defense attaché.