In a shocking disclosure, it was recently found that weapons delivered by Western countries to Ukraine to counter the Russian offensive have been advertised for sale.
Military experts have regularly cautioned that some of the military support provided to Ukrainian forces could slip into the wrong hands as the West increased shipments of firearms and ammo to Ukraine. It appears that their worry has materialized this time.
According to ABS News, a pro-Russian news outlet, some of the transferred western weapons have now found their way to the dark web, a section of the internet that can only be accessed using the TOR browser.
ASB Military News, [6/2/2022 10:26 AM]
Ukrops are selling Javelins on the darknet.
The command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine resells equipment and weapons supplied by NATO to the Middle East and North Africa.
Anyone with a TOR browser can buy this ATGM in the online store. pic.twitter.com/q91riuadO9
— DONBASS Z 🇷🇺 (@TrumpFix) June 2, 2022
The report claims that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are selling Javelins, military hardware, and other weapons obtained from the US and its NATO allies to customers in the Middle East and North Africa on the darknet. Anyone with a TOR browser can purchase the ATGM Javelin from the online shop, the report added.
US Raytheon and Lockheed Martin produce the Javelin anti-tank weapons.
According to the Pentagon’s 2021 budget, each Javelin costs $178,000, including the launch system and missiles. However, these Javelins are currently only available for $30,000 on the dark web.
However, KELA, an Israeli cyber-intelligence platform, revealed that many reports of weapons on the dark web are published on pro-Russian Telegram channels and the Russian media.
The coordinated publication across numerous channels raises the possibility that this could be a component of a disinformation campaign meant to portray Ukrainians as unethical and untrustworthy.
Concerns Over Illegal Weapon Transfers
The promotion of weapons on the dark web is worrying military experts. The chief of Interpol, Jürgen Stock, previously warned that heavy weapons would flood the global market once the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is resolved.
“Once the guns fall silent [in Ukraine], illegal weapons will come. We know this from many other instances of conflict. Criminals are even now, as we speak, focusing on them,” said Stock, emphasizing the difficulty presented by the influx of illegal firearms onto the black market.
He stated that Interpol had asked members to utilize its database to “track and trace” the weapons. “We are in contact with member countries to encourage them to use these tools. Criminals are interested in all kinds of weapons…basically, any weapons that can be carried might be used for criminal purposes.”
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that social media posts or images of Ukrainian citizens lining up to take weapons have demonstrated their will and unity in the struggle for their nation’s sovereignty. However, these accounts overlook the risk of illegal diversion that comes with supplying firearms with little regulation.
It is a situation that the Ukrainian government does not seem to be aware of, even though, in recent years, the illegal diversion of military-grade weaponry like hand grenades, rockets, and landmines has become a lucrative industry in Ukraine, giving the nation a regrettable reputation.
Veteran journalist Prakash Nanda previously noted that “since its emergence as an independent country in 1991, Ukraine has been fighting the menace of illegal smuggling of arms, ammunition, and armament-scientists and engineers for all the troubled spots of the world, notably the Middle-East, North Korea, and China.”
The Ukrainian government has looked into cases of military property theft, but there is still a problem with small and large-arms theft.
For instance, a “Small Arms Survey” briefing in 2017 discovered that only around 13% of the more than 300,000 small arms that vanished from Ukraine between 2013 and 2015 were recovered.
In fact, on December 27, 2021, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) organized a workshop with participants from the Ukrainian security, prosecutorial, and law enforcement agencies as well as criminal justice professionals from countries like Romania, Slovakia, Georgia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France.
The event’s overarching goal was to support an improved criminal justice response to illegal gun trafficking and organized crime and to make it easier for Ukraine to implement the Organized Crime Convention and its supplemental Firearms Protocol.
In this case, the Ukrainian Security Service described in their presentation the investigations done to stop the trafficking of firearms. Several incidents involving organized criminal groups that imported illegal guns and their parts into Ukraine were disclosed.
By revealing the specifics of ten cases, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office also thoroughly studied the gun cases and the accused individuals.
But it does not ignore the fact that Kyiv is ill-prepared to tackle the issue, according to Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University. Kyiv is plagued by a culture of corruption and is working to end the conflict in the east.