Western nations ‘go blank’ on the weapons whereabouts the moment they get into Ukraine, an official told the Financial Times
Concerns are growing among NATO and EU members about the way Ukraine handles the weapons supplied by the West, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. Western nations are now seeking to establish a special tracking mechanism to try and prevent these arms from ending up in Europe’s black markets, the paper added.
Since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, the US and its allies in Europe and elsewhere have pledged over $10 billion in military assistance to Kiev. The weapons shipments included scores of small arms, as well as portable anti-tank and anti-air missiles.
“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,” an unidentified Western official told the Financial Times, explaining why the EU and NATO wanted Kiev to keep a detailed inventory list for all the Western weapons it received.
“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 official added. According to the EU’s law enforcement agency, some of the arms might have already left Ukraine’s territory and found their way back to Europe.
In April, Europol warned that its investigations indicated the weapons were being trafficked out of Ukraine and into the EU to supply organized criminal groups. The conflict in Ukraine “has resulted in the proliferation of a significant number of firearms and explosives in the country,” the agency said at the time.
Europol appeared to be particularly concerned about the fact that Ukrainian authorities had “abandoned” the practice of keeping “registers of firearms handed out to civilians” at the beginning of the conflict. “Firearms have been distributed without records since then,” the agency said, calling for a similar register to be created for all weapons and military materials transferred from the EU to Ukraine.
Kiev has denied “becoming a major hub for arms smuggling.” According to Yury Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, “any movement of weaponry either into Ukraine or out of Ukraine … is very closely monitored and supervised both by Ukraine and our international partners.”
Washington also said it trusted Kiev, even though it admitted that the prospect of American weapons sent to Ukraine getting into the wrong hands was “among a host of considerations” due to 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.
America’s European allies appear less sure about the whole issue. “It’s hard to avoid trafficking or smuggling,” Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova told journalists in Prague on Friday, adding that Western nations failed to “achieve it in former Yugoslavia and probably won’t avoid it in Ukraine.” According to the minister, it would not be possible to track every single item even if the donor nations did all they could to follow the weapons.
In June, the Swedish police sounded the alarm over weapons sent to Kiev potentially ending up with criminal gangs. Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock also expressed a similar concern within the same month.