NATO and EU nations are pushing for better tracing of arms shipments to Ukraine amid fears criminal groups are smuggling them out of the country and onto the European black market.
Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine, Western nations have pledged more than $10 billion in military assistance, ranging from man-portable rocket launchers and armored vehicles to rifles and vast amounts of ammunition.
A number of NATO member states are discussing with Kyiv some sort of tracking system or detailed inventory of arms being shipped to Ukraine, two Western officials briefed on the talks told the Financial Times.
The Ukrainian government is building a more comprehensive weapons surveillance and tracking system with the help of Western countries, said a third person familiar with the situation.
“All these weapons end up in southern Poland, are shipped to the border and then just divided into vehicles that have to be crossed: trucks, vans, sometimes private cars,” said one of the western officials. “And as of that moment, we don’t know anything about their location and we have no idea where they’re going, where they’re being used, or if they’re staying in the country.”
The potential of US arms sent to Ukraine falling into the wrong hands is “among a multitude of considerations” given the “challenging situation” on the ground in the country, said Bonnie Denise Jenkins, US undersecretary for arms control and international security. on Tuesday.
“The US takes very seriously our responsibility to protect American-origin defense technologies and to prevent their diversion or illegal distribution,” Jenkins told reporters in Brussels, adding that the US is in “constant contact” with Kyiv on the matter.
“We trust the Ukrainian government’s commitment to adequately protect and hold the US accountable [weapons]’ Jenkins added.
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, said: “Any movement of arms either to Ukraine or out of Ukraine – if such a shipment is necessary for repairs – will be monitored and monitored very closely by both Ukraine and our international partners .”
The issue of arms trafficking from Ukraine was discussed at a meeting of EU home affairs ministers this week, while the European Commission opened an “EU Support Hub” in neighboring Moldova on Monday to provide expertise and cooperation in tackling issues such as arms smuggling.
“It’s hard to avoid human trafficking or smuggling – we didn’t achieve it in the former Yugoslavia and we probably won’t avoid it in Ukraine either,” Jana Černochová, the Czech defense minister, told reporters in Prague on Friday. She said she trusts donor countries are taking all necessary steps to trace weapons, but warned that it is not possible to trace every item.
Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said in April its investigations had revealed that arms trafficking from Ukraine to the bloc supplying organized crime groups had begun and posed a potential threat to EU security.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has led to the proliferation of a significant number of firearms and explosives in the country,” Europol said in a briefing note sent to governments.
“Originally, Ukrainian officials kept registers of firearms issued to civilians, but this practice was abandoned as the war progressed, and firearms have since been distributed without records,” it said, calling for “a register of weapons and other military materials transferred from the.” EU to Ukraine” to help law enforcement authorities prosecute.
“Information that Ukraine is becoming a major arms smuggling hub does not correspond to reality,” Sak said, implying that those claiming this “could be part of Russia’s information warfare to prevent international partners from targeting Ukraine.” to supply with weapons necessary for our victory”.