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Ukraine arms-trafficking into Poland on rise

  • The Western Balkans remains a main gateway of illegal arms trafficking into the EU (Photo: Maja Zlatevska, Dnevnik)
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Attempts to smuggle illegal firearms into Poland from the Ukraine are on the rise, according to an internal EU document.

"Although large-scale trafficking of firearms has not yet become apparent, an increasing number of attempts to smuggle firearms from Ukraine to Poland has already been observed," notes the document, dated 30 November.

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It also found evidence of arms-trafficking in the opposite direction, from the EU.

"Firearms are also trafficked from the EU towards Ukraine and Libya. Given the ongoing conflict, Syria may become a country of interest in supplying EU markets with firearms," it notes.

The 47-page document was drafted by Empact, a security driven initiative by EU member states. No figures were given, due - in part - to the lack of systematic and harmonised collection of data on seizures of firearms in the EU.

But it does list operational plans of individual member states to curb firearms trafficking throughout next year.

Ukraine is labelled as a participant in over a dozen such plans, including one led by Romania to tackle high-risk criminal networks.

Most flows going into Ukraine

Nils Duquet is a weapons expert and director of the Flemish Peace Institute.

"At the moment, it seems like most of the weapon flows are actually still going to the Ukraine," he told EUobserver.

"There are seizures at the border. It's not always clear in what direction the weapons are going," he said.

"But there is definitely this fear that some of the weapons which are currently in Ukraine are also flowing back into the EU," he said.

Duquet drew parallels with the armed legacy conflicts like in former Yugoslavia, where weapons continue to flow into the EU.

He said Ukraine as well as Syria and Libya could fall into a similar predicament, where weapons in the region may end up being trafficked elsewhere.

"Then we would have a really big problem because we are still dealing with the weapons in the Western Balkans as leftover from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia," he said.

His comments came ahead of a 214-page report published by the Flemish Peace Institute on Monday (13 December).

The report details the level of gun violence in the EU.

Among the findings is the relatively new phenomenon of using 3D printers to create firearms.

"This is something that's new, and which is quite worrying because it's very difficult to combat," said Duquet.

"It enables access to firearms to people without criminal connections, and therefore might have a big impact also on gun violence," he said, noting 3D printer workshops have been dismantled in Spain.

Last month, Dutch police dismantled a clandestine workshop, where nine 3D printers were printing firearm components.

Other documented problems include the increasing use of so-called Flobert-calibre rifles in the EU.

The small caliber guns are cheap and sold legally in some EU states. But they can also be converted into higher calibre and more powerful firearms.

The 2016 Munich shooter reportedly used a Flobert firearm, which killed ten people and injured 35 others.

Although the 2017 EU legislation on firearms aimed to tighten restrictions, loopholes remained.

The restrictions led to a drop in the trade of so-called reactivated salute and acoustic weapons.

But they also led to an increase in the conversion of Flobert-calibre rifles. Both Slovakia and the Czech Republic, for instance, exempted Floberts from the EU directive.

Gun shops in Slovakia, which before were selling deactivated firearms, are now said to be selling Floberts. Slovakia was also the source country for the deactivated weapons used by the terrorist in the 2015 kosher supermarket attack in France.

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