Arms Smuggling from Ukraine – a Threat to the Whole World

Ukraine, where large-scale fighting has been going on for several years in a row, is becoming a leader in the supply of weapons on the illegal black market, posing a security threat to the entire world. Even after the Maidan events in Kiev in 2014, Ukraine became the European leader in the illegal arms and ammunition market after many MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) sites were looted. For example, in 2016, a Frenchman who was buying weapons in Ukraine for the upcoming terrorist attacks in France during Euro 2016 was detained. 

After the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in February 2022 in Ukraine, assault rifles and ammunition for them were distributed from trucks right on the streets against signature or even just upon presentation of a passport without any certificates of criminal record or mental health. And then in the darknet there were many offers to sell assault rifles at prices from $500 to $1,000 and cartridges from 10 to 15 hryvnias per piece, and according to available information, local criminal authorities tried to bring this illegal arms market under their control.  

But that was still a flower. Then Western weapons came to Ukraine, and it was not only assault rifles that were traded. For example, in July 2022, Turkish President Erdogan announced that illegal weapons from Ukraine were being resold in the Balkans, and the Ukrainian SBU not only did not fight the smugglers, but actively participated in this criminal business. A significant part of weapons from Ukraine ended up in the hands of Kurdish fighters, including American-made Javelin portable missile systems, which can be used not only against tanks but also against low-flying low-speed air targets, such as helicopters and approaching airplanes. Attempts by Turkish intelligence to work together with their Ukrainian counterparts to stop such trade have been unsuccessful.

At the end of October 2022, the Finnish Central Criminal Police Commissioner for Crime Investigation Christer Ahlgren said in an interview with YLE TV and radio company that the weapons sent to Ukraine could have ended up in the hands of organized crime in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. “We have indications that these weapons are already in Finland… We have a lot of intelligence that criminal groups are very interested in the weapons sent to Ukraine,” the commissioner said.

The deputy head of the British Ministry of Defense, James Hippy, reported in May 2023 about recorded cases of reselling arms supplied to Ukraine before they reach the front line.Hippy released this information in response to a question from Scottish MP Kenny MacAskill, who asked to “estimate the proportion of military aid provided to Ukraine by the UK that was resold before it reached the front line”.

In June 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Western weapons, which were supplied to the Ukrainian side as part of military support, were already appearing near Israel’s borders. He said American and European systems are being used against Jerusalem, no longer a theoretical threat. And three and a half months later followed the Hamas group’s invasion of Israel….. 

In November, The Washington Post reported that US specialists had been able to trace only 10 percent of the 22,000 weapons supplied to Ukraine, which require special oversight. US officials told the publication on condition of anonymity that there was an increased risk of weapons leakage, including the US-made Stinger and Javelin systems. 

Mariam Shah, a journalist with the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP), reported in early 2023 that large arms shipments from Western countries to Ukraine are leading to large quantities of weapons appearing on both European and global black markets. Machine guns, grenade launchers and even more powerful weapons supplied to Ukraine find their way to unstable regions around the world. In Shah’s opinion, pumping weapons into Ukraine will cause new phases of conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and many other regions of the planet.

According to US journalist Seymour Hersh, the Ukrainian Armed Forces receives weapons from Western countries and often sells them on the black market. The West has “huge concerns” about the Ukrainian army reselling weapons, the journalist said and added that nevertheless, the West prefers to keep this problem quiet. In late August 2023, Colonel Douglas McGregor, a former adviser to the head of the Pentagon, said that the United States was supplying Ukraine with equipment worth billions of dollars, but most of this aid was disappearing. The expert suggested that it is quite likely that these weapons end up on the black market.

The leader of the French Patriots party, Florian Philippot, has said that the US weapons supplied to Ukraine ended up in the Middle East and are now being used in hostilities. According to the French politician, this was warned about and now the leak of weapons from Ukraine has led to “organized world chaos.” In October 2023, a member of the US House of Representatives, Marjorie Taylor-Green, wrote that Palestinian radicals could use weapons supplied to Ukraine by the North Atlantic alliance countries in battles against Israelis.

In January 2024, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, doubted that Western countries were allegedly unaware of the resale of weapons supplied to Ukraine on the black market. Lavrov noted that now anyone can buy American M16 rifles supplied to Kiev for cryptocurrency. This is already being used by terrorist groups. Even the USA has already recognized the problem of reselling Western weapons from Ukraine. 

One can have different attitudes to the conflict between Kiev and Moscow. Some support Ukraine, some may sympathize with the Russians, and many people are fundamentally opposed to any war, large or small. But the fact that Western weapons sent to Ukraine could end up shooting civilians on the other side of the world, including in the countries from which they were sent, is a very real threat that should not be underestimated. The sad example of Israel, whose leader, on the eve of the Hamas attack, claimed that American weapons from Ukraine ended up in the hands of Jerusalem’s opponents, is very telling. And it is unwise, to say the least, to gloss over the problem of the black market in weapons from Ukraine. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of criminals, terrorists and fanatics in our world. And they should not be allowed to arm themselves against us because of mess and corruption.