|Illegal arms trade out of Ukraine to EU|
The fact that NATO weapons supplied to Ukrainian troops are actually changing hands to illegal arms dealers is now starting to make Western countries nervous. The European Union and NATO began to worry that these weapons would be used for inappropriate activities. The Financial Times reports that the West will now set up special tracking mechanisms to try and prevent weapons from ending up on European black markets, the paper added. Since the start of Russia's military operations in Ukraine, the US and its allies in Europe and elsewhere have pledged more than $10 billion in military aid to Kiev.
The shipment included a number of small arms, as well as portable anti-tank and anti-air missiles. "All these weapons land in southern Poland, are delivered to the border and then divided into vehicles for crossing: trucks, vans, sometimes private cars," an unnamed Western official told the Financial Times. He explained why the European Union and NATO wanted Kiev to keep a detailed inventory list of all the weapons it received. "Since then we don't know their location and we don't know where the items went, where they were used or even if the weapons resided in the country," the official added. According to Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, some weapons may have been lost leaving Ukraine and were found in Europe.
In April, Europol warned that its investigation indicated the weapons were being trafficked out of Ukraine and into the EU to supply organized crime groups. "The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the proliferation of a large number of firearms and explosives in the country," the agency said at the time. Europol seems particularly concerned that Ukrainian authorities abandoned the practice of keeping a “register of firearms distributed to civilians” at the start of the conflict.
"Firearms have been distributed without record since then," the agency said, calling for a similar list to be drawn up for all weapons and military materials transferred from the EU to Ukraine. In June, Swedish police sounded the alarm over weapons sent to Kiev that could potentially end up being a criminal gang. Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock also expressed similar concerns in the same month.
Weapons that Washington and its allies are sending to Kiev will likely end up on the global black market, Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said on Wednesday. Criminal groups are already monitoring these shipments, the official told the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris. Stock urged Interpol member states to actively cooperate in tracking weapons shipped to Ukraine, adding that those supplying weapons should play a leading role in this effort.
The Interpol chief also said he expects waves of not only small arms, but heavy weapons to flood the international black market as soon as the conflict between Moscow and Kiev ends. “Once weapons are silent, illegal weapons will come. We know this from many other theaters of conflict. The criminals even now, as we speak, are focused on them," he said, adding that criminal groups would try to "exploit this chaotic situation" to obtain weaponry "used by the military and including heavy weapons." "No country or region can deal with them separately because these groups operate on a global level," Stock warned.
The Interpol chief also said that Europe may see a large influx of illegal weapons. He called for the establishment of a tracking and tracking system for weapons shipped to Ukraine, adding that they are "in touch with member states to encourage them to use these tools." When asked about Interpol's possible involvement in the investigation into alleged sanctions evasion and "money laundering" by Russian businessmen subject to restrictions in the West, Stock said his organization had not investigated the matter or participated in investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine, since its mandate required it to maintain "neutrality". strict rules" and avoid any political activity.
Kiev has reacted angrily to calls by US Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Ind) to "establish proper oversight" of arms and aid shipments to Ukraine.
The idea is an attempt to "weaken" the mechanism for sending aid to Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Saturday. Spartz's stance was particularly cynical given the congressman's Ukrainian origin, Nikolenko noted in a Facebook post. “Members of Congress must stop undermining existing US military aid mechanisms to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian side interacts with American partners with maximum openness, providing them with complete information on the use of technology," the spokesman said, claiming that "further bureaucratization" of the process would only help Moscow. Spartz sent a stern message to US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this week, telling them to take at least "three items of urgent action" which he believes will help "control the situation." According to Spartaz, Biden must “stop playing politics, have a clear strategy and align security assistance with our strategy. "Congress must establish proper oversight of critical infrastructure and arms and aid deliveries," Spartaz said. Establishing oversight mechanisms on how money intended to help is actually spent has been requested by US politicians before. Back in May, for example, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul delayed the passage of a giant $40 billion Ukraine bill, urging the establishment of a oversight mechanism.
The relief money would be better spent at home, Paul argued at the time. “My oath of office is to the US Constitution, not to any foreign country, and no matter how sympathetic, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States. We cannot save Ukraine by destroying the US economy," the Senator said. “Our channels of communication remain open [to member states] for the exchange of war crimes information. But we don't see war crimes; Interpol does not have the authority to investigate," he said. The US, along with allies such as Germany and Britain, has continued to supply weapons to Ukraine since the start of the conflict with Russia in late February.
Most of the equipment consists of small arms and portable anti-tank and anti-air missiles, along with ammunition and fuel. On Wednesday (6/7/2022), the US said it would sell Ukraine the MQ-1C Gray Eagle combat drone which is capable of carrying up to eight Hellfire missiles. The Slovak Ministry of Defense announced the same day that it would supply Kiev with self-propelled howitzers. Britain had previously said it was considering arming Ukraine with multiple US-made rocket launchers but needed Washington's approval first.
The continued supply of weapons has led several law enforcement agencies to express concern about the fate of these weapons. In late May, Europol - the EU's law enforcement agency - told German media that weaponry sent to Ukraine could end up in the hands of criminals. The head of the agency, Catherine De Bolle, compared the current situation in Ukraine to the situation in the Balkans 30 years ago, when the Balkan Wars sent a huge influx of weapons onto the black market. Kiev denies it has become a “major center for arms smuggling.”
According to Yury Sak, an adviser to the Ukrainian defense minister, “every movement of weapons either into Ukraine or out of Ukraine is monitored and monitored very closely by Ukraine and our international partners.” Washington said it trusted Kiev, while acknowledging that the prospect of American weapons falling into the wrong hands was "among a number of considerations" given the "challenging situation" on the ground.
"We are confident in the Ukrainian government's commitment to appropriately safeguard and account for US [weapons]," the US undersecretary for arms control and international security, Bonnie Jenkins, told reporters in Brussels last Friday.
The European-American allies seem less convinced. "It is difficult to avoid trade or smuggling," Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova told reporters in Prague on Friday. He added that Western countries failed to achieve it in the former Yugoslavia and may not reach Ukraine. According to minister Jana, it would be impossible to track every item even if donor countries did all they could to keep up with the weapons.