The Russia-Ukraine war: concerns about smuggling in arms shipments to kyiv

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The Russia-Ukraine war: concerns about smuggling in arms shipments to kyiv

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Ukrainian forces are training civilians in handling weapons. Photo by AFP

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Western arms shipments to Ukraine have raised concerns over possible transfers, in a country known as the primary location for such trafficking in the late 90s.

“There is a very important risk associated with the proliferation of weapons in Ukraine, especially light and small caliber weapons,” stressed Nils Duquet, director of the Flemish Peace Institute.

Since Russia’s military offensive began on February 24, several Western countries, led by the United States, have announced the supply of heavy weapons and light in support of the Ukrainian government against Russian troops.

The United States, among others, has supplied or pledged hundreds of Switchblade “suicide drones,” 7,000 assault rifles, 50 million rounds of ammunition and various ammunition, laser-guided rockets, and anti-artillery and anti-drone radar.

But while this support for Ukraine is “understandable”, it is important assess “security implications” of shifting that weapon, suggests the Stimson Center, an American think tank.

Ukrainian forces in the Kharkov region.  Photo by AFP

Ukrainian forces in the Kharkov region. Photo by AFP

Background

“Many times we have seen how weapons seek help from an ally eventually found in unexpected hands, sometimes between groups disagreeing with the interests of the United States and the civilian population, ”the center warned in a note published in March.

“This is particularly true for small arms and light weapons, which present some increased risk of loss, shifting to the illicit market or misuse,” it added.

Based on recent history in Ukraine, the risk of diversion is far from fictional. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Ukrainian weapons were diverted to other countries and other conflict zones.

In 2014, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was accompanied by a new theft at a Ukrainian arms and ammunition depot, particularly in the east and in the Crimea.

Ukrainian forces surrendered to the Russians in Mariupol.  Photo by AP

Ukrainian forces surrendered to the Russians in Mariupol. Photo by AP

In total, at least 300,000 light and small arms were stolen or disappeared between 2013 and 2015, according to the Geneva Institute of Senior International and Development Studies’s Small Arms Survey (SAS) research project. Only 4,000 were found then.

But contrary to external flows seen when the Soviet Union collapsed, traffic after 2014 was mostly concentrated within Ukraine, fueling the black market, according to SAS.

The risks

In the United States, the issue of monitoring the end of the use of weapons sent to Ukraine has been emphasized with concern since 2020 by the Pentagon inspector general.

Some NGOs, such as the Center for Civilians in Conflict (Civic), also sounded the alarm, underlined lack of transparency about measures taken to reduce the risk or surveillance of the United States and other countries that send weapons to Ukraine ”.

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Source: Clarin

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