Various scandals linked with smuggling Western weapons in Ukraine are no longer a sensation. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian and the U.S. authorities are making every effort to cover this matter. A vivid example is a story about removing the documentary film under the name “Arming Ukraine” by the CBS TV channel. The film says that only 30% of the supplied Western weapons reached the front. In response, the adviser to the Ukrainian president Mykhailo Podolyak named the film “Russian disinformation”. Is this true, and what is going on in Ukraine? Let’s begin with the statements of the Ukrainian side.
In late August, the police chief of the Kyiv region, Andrii Nebytov, noted that law enforcement agencies had opened more than 200 criminal cases on illegal circling weapons for the past six months. He also stressed that this year the Ukrainian police seized 2.5 times more weapons than a year before. One of the most resonance cases is the detention of a criminal group which has stolen 60 assault rifles and ammunition for further sale.
The detainees hid1 behind the service in the territorial defense battalion. Even those civilians who received weapons at the beginning of the conflict are not trying to bring them back. Nebytov also noted that civilians had returned only about 1,000 of 6,500 distributed weapons.
Therefore, some Ukrainian authorities confirm the problems linked to the country’s storage and illegally circling of weapons. However, most of them expectedly try to hide the actual situation.
For instance, Ihor Bondarenko, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, directly claims2 that the situation with the circulation of weapons will soon be taken under strict control following the launch3 of a unified weapon register system by Kyiv. It will track the history of a gun from assembly to destruction. It sounds pretentious, especially against the fact that Ukrainian officials have been unsuccessfully trying to put the electronic registry project into service since the beginning of this year. It is unknown whether this register will include rifles distributed among civilians and numerous Western supplies.
The head of the National Police, Ihor Klimenko, also touched on the situation around weapons. In a document published by a private Ukrainian telegram channel, he told the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valerii Zaluzhny, that uncontrolled distribution of weapons among civilians without any accounting could cause an increased crime rate. Klimenko also asked Zaluzhny to provide information on the issue of weapons distribution to the civilians and territorial defense battalions from the very beginning of the war in Ukraine.
The unfavorable situation in Ukraine is smoothly projected on Europe, punishing the European Union for negligence and uncontrolled weapons supply to the country of conflict. So, alarming messages from the EU are emerging more often. Not long ago, German journalists from the Freikorps community reported4 on an exciting and frightening incident in Germany. In Bremen, the police detained the Ukrainian military, who tried to smuggle the U.S. Stinger MANPADS on the ship Florian en route to Turkey! In this regard, the German authorities immediately sent an official request to Kyiv. Then on September 8, the state Ukrainian Radio published5 an article with two documents attached to it.
The first document says that the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Shaptala, requires the Command of the Logistics forces, Oleg Gulyak, to inspect the availability and storage conditions of the Stinger MANPADS in warehouses of the 92 separate mechanized brigade due to the loss of three MANPADS and 24 missiles by military personnel.
In the second document from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba noted that the armed forces of Ukraine conducted an inspection at their warehouses and reported that two Stingers were indeed sent to the 92 separate mechanized brigade and were in the warehouses of the unit in Kharkiv. But it’s still a mystery where the Bremen police have seized another MANPADS and 24 missiles.
However, several questions arise regarding this situation. For example, it is unclear why the first document says about the loss of three MANPADS and a pack of missiles and the second – only about the discovery of two German Stingers in Kharkiv. At the same time, the weapons were not even verified by numbers, and the state-owned Ukrainian Radio just deleted the news compromising the Ukrainian authorities.
The situation with the Stingers is more than real. The pro-government German news agency Correctiv issued a denial, trying to present the situation as a fake. The journalists stated that the suggested videos and documents were Russian disinformation, even though the Germans were the primary source of the news about the Stingers.
In this regard, it is interesting to figure out the statement of the Bremen police on Twitter, where they refused to have anything to the video.
At first glance, the statement looks quite natural but slightly sly. Police have nothing to do with the video, as it was filmed not by the serviceman but by a German student who happened to be at the place of the incident. Corrective’s arguments concerning changing audio tracks are not supported by anything. In addition, it is quite possible that the detained criminals were not Ukrainians, but citizens of another state. For instance, citizens of Poland, the Netherlands6, and the famous Moldovan7 thief-in-law were detained in May 2022 for organizing illegal arms supplies and smuggling all over Europe. Only a few questions remain unclear: what were these Stingers, and who was detained for their transportation?
Against this background, the Bremen police abandoned profound statements and resorted to understatement. For its part, various journalists stated that the videos and documents were Russian disinformation, even though the Germans were the primary source of the news about the Stingers.
Such a campaign with the hush-up of the problem is quite understandable. Neither Ukrainian nor German authorities find the incident with Stingers inconvenient. However, in German society, there are still people who can think straight and perceive the actual situation. So, in late September, Olga Petersen, a politician of the Alternative for Germany, appealed to the mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, requesting to investigate the incident with Stingers in the port of Bremen. However, she has not yet received an answer to the request.
Another confirmation that weapons are disappearing in Ukraine is that Washington started to make claims to Kyiv in May regarding the accounting and storage of MANPADS that have been supplied8 since February. No serious steps were taken to remedy the situation, which led to catching criminals with MANPADS in Bremen.
In order international community not to accuse Zelensky’s government of complete inaction regarding arms smuggling, Ukrainian news outlets regularly cover the topic of combating arms trafficking in the country. Monthly information concerning the detention of arms smugglers emerges in the media. For example, on August 22 and 24, outlets published9 news covering the fight between the Ukrainian authorities and arms dealers. At the same time, SBU announced10 the neutralization of two powerful channels of illegal arms trafficking and the arrest of a gun dealer in the Mykolaiv region. It looks like a redistribution of sales markets where SBU tries to play a decisive role.
Surprisingly, the Pentagon’s written order on the strictest control over arms supplies was not enough for Ukraine. The lack of control and indifference towards high-tech weapons on the part of the armed forces of Ukraine has made the U.S. take this sphere under strict control and appoint DoD General Sean O’Donnell to supervise all the military supplies.
In an interview with Bloomberg, he also confirmed that the Ukrainian side records NATO weapons only on paper, which directly affects its tracking on the ground. His words once again prove that the idea of Ihor Bondarenko concerning a unified register of weapons is not consistent. At the same time, most Twitter users share the opinion of the American military official. They do not understand how can modern HIMARS complexes be registered on paper, as in the era of the First World War.
The Spanish police have made great strides in investigating Ukrainian arms smuggling threat assessment. The Spanish security forces decided11 to put in the first place the issue of illegal arms supplies from Ukraine in the work plan for the next three years, on a par with human trafficking and terrorism. Oddly, the whole European Union has not taken care of this.
Not for nothing, the head of Europol stated12 the danger posed by the supply of weapons to Ukraine, as most of it returns to the EU to radicals and criminals. Following the Spanish example, it is worth adding the same points for preventing arms smuggling from Ukraine in the plans of police departments throughout Europe.
Moreover, the government of Zelensky is fighting arms smuggling only in the media, declaring the desire to take the entire turnover under the strictest control. The duties of SBU are performed by U.S. General Sean O’Donnell, who was ordered to conduct an inspection and deal with the smuggling of weapons from Ukraine. The German and Spanish police representatives are also in the cage with him, who seized Stingers from Ukraine in Bremen and developed plans to disrupt supply chains for years to come.
It is not surprising that Chancellor Scholz prohibits the supply of German tanks to Ukraine. If the Ukrainian army can’t cope with the registration and storage of MANPADS, heavier weapons will be lost even faster. In addition, it is outrageous that the German authorities pay little attention to the issue of monitoring the supplied weapons. It is in the interests of Berlin to strengthen work in this sphere, even on the territory of Ukraine. And the matter is not even in the fact that the weapons return to Germany, which threatens the population’s security. Moreover, the United States is again trying to lead on this issue and impose its standards and claims. Ultimately, this will lead to another dependence on Washington, as seen from the example of the relationship between the United States and other EU countries within NATO.
It is outrageous that many MEPs still believe the situation with Ukrainian arms smuggling to Europe does not look so alarming. They don’t think about why no one has been able to get acquainted with the annual report of the U.S. State Department World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers.
The point is that the report won’t be published this year since Biden’s ‘most open administration’ just cancelled13 it. The document reflects information about all military supplies from the United States. Following its publication, various OSINT journalists can easily compare the supply of weapons with the number in the Ukrainian army. Thus, it will be difficult for U.S. officials to explain the discrepancies.
All these facts prove the existence of illegal arms trafficking in Ukraine. Surprisingly, Germany is not trying to oppose or take arms supplies under its strictest supervision.