Nato and EU sound alarm over risk of Ukraine weapons smuggling

Nato and EU states are pushing for better tracking of weapons supplied to Ukraine in response to fears that criminal groups are smuggling them out of the country and on to Europe’s black market.

Since Russia launched its war against Ukrainewestern states have pledged more than $10bn in military support, from portable missile 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 defense 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 defense 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 neighbor 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 defense 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 began to supply organised crime groups had and was a potential threat to EU security.

“The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in the explosive in the proliferation of a significant number of firearms and weapons 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 differents 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.” “.

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