7th Jul 2022

War in Ukraine raises fears over crime threat in Europe

  • It is estimated that four million people have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion began (Photo: European Union, 2022)
Listen to article

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised fears over a possible rise in crime and criminal activity in the EU, prompting its agencies to step up efforts.

An internal EU document, seen by EUobserver, recently warned of the increased risk of human trafficking and sexual abuse, cyberattacks, infiltration of criminals, and circulation of weapons, drugs and illegal cigarettes.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Last month, the International Organization for Migration raised concerns over the risks of trafficking in persons fleeing Ukraine.

The UN body warned, in particular, over a potential increase in sexual abuse since most of the people leaving the country are women and children.

The joint EU police agency, Europol, has deployed officers to Slovakia, Poland and Moldova to monitor potential threats regarding migrant smuggling and arms trafficking.

While Ukrainian refugees can be targeted at different stages of their journey, Europol said the highest risks concern the targeting of victims under the pretence of promising transportation, free accommodation, employment or other sorts of support.

It is estimated that four million people have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

EU member states have been invited to increase national controls to prevent any risk of criminal infiltration, including terrorists who may use falsified identity documents to enter the 27-nation bloc.

"The [EU] services already note that the heads of criminal organisations could take advantage of the situation to enter the Schengen area," reads the internal document dated 31 March.

It adds that the war in Ukraine is "conducive" to the circulation of weapons, some of which could be used for criminal purposes in the EU — warning that the risk of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons must also be taken into consideration.

Likewise, the illegal trade of abandoned or stolen private vehicles and their spare parts belonging to Ukrainian refugees could flourish in border countries.

The EU has also identified a rise in cyberattacks and fake news among the main criminal threats linked to the war in Ukraine.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have recently all reported attacks on digital infrastructure, according to the document.

But it is still unclear whether these have a direct link to the war in Ukraine.

Drugs and tobacco

Additionally, the EU says there is a risk that the flow of drugs to the EU will increase via Ukraine in the long term.

Ukraine is seen as a transiting country for heroin and other drugs like opium and methamphetamine from Afghanistan — but also as an important source of smuggled and clandestinely produced tobacco products, together with Belarus and the Russian-speaking region of Transnistria in Moldova.

The disruptions in Transnistria's border controls and search for income by Belarusian officials in response to European and international sanctions may pose "a risk of intensifying heavily organised smuggling," reads the document.

EU will support investigation into war crimes in Ukraine

The European Commission has pledged to support investigations into potential war crimes in Ukraine — following reports of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, Irpin, and other Ukrainian cities.

EU: Ukraine war makes internal rule-of-law fight essential

Hungary said the EU should demonstrate unity — instead of policing internal rule-of-law breaches. But top EU officials have defended ongoing procedures against Hungary and Poland over concerns of judicial independence and democratic backsliding.


Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.


One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  2. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  3. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  4. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  5. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  6. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  7. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  8. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us