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30th Jan 2023

EU creates hub to stop arms-smuggling out of Ukraine

  • Illegal weapons smuggling will 'feed into violence in the criminal networks in European Union' (Photo: Maja Zlatevska, Dnevnik)
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EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson announced a hub in Moldova to battle organised crime, particularly arms smuggling from war-torn Ukraine, at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Prague on Monday (11 July).

The EU Support Hub for Internal Security and Border Management will focus on preventing weapons, most of which are supplied by Nato members, from being smuggled out of Ukraine and ending up with criminal gangs.

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Such smuggling will "feed into violence in the criminal networks in European Union," Johansson said.

"It is hard to avoid weapons-smuggling. We try to keep track of them, but I would be lying if I said we will succeed. We failed after the war in Yugoslavia, and we can't prevent it now," an EU official, speaking anonymously, told EUobserver.

The hub will be a "one-stop-shop" allowing the EU's border guard agency Frontex to support local border agencies, and will enable Europol to share information, Johansson also said.

Each member state will also deploy law enforcement officers to the hub's head office which will be operating from the Moldovan capital Chișinău, increasing local capacity and aimed at also countering human trafficking.

Aija Kalnaja, interim head of Frontex, said Moldova was chosen as a base of operations "because this is where the trafficking of weapons can come mostly."

Swedish migration minister Anders Ygeman said most of the weapons supplied to Ukraine were in the hands of the Ukrainian military.

But speaking at the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris in June, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock warned that "once the guns fall silent, the illegal weapons will come."

"The criminals are, as we speak, focusing on them," Stock said. "We should be alarmed and expect these weapons to be trafficked to neighbouring countries and other continents."

He urged countries "track and trace" the weapons.

Ukraine has a long history of illegal arms trade, with the most prominent case being that of the MV Faina, a Ukrainian cargo ship that was caught trafficking tanks, artillery and AKM assault rifles to Sudan in 2009 — which came to light when it the ship was captured by Somali pirates.

The new hub comes amid urgent pleas from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to boost weapons and ammunition supplies to help counter Russian advances in the country's east and south.

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