Tensions are rising again in eastern Ukraine-nearly two-and-a-half years after the conflict began between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops. Peace accords signed last year helped reduce tensions, but created another problem. Weapon illegally smuggled out of the region and sold to criminal gangs.
CCTV’s Paul Barber reports.
Ukraine conflict boosts illegal weapons marketTensions are rising again in eastern Ukraine-nearly two-and-a-half years after the conflict began between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops. Peace accords signed last year helped reduce tensions, but created another problem. Weapon illegally smuggled out of the region and sold to criminal gangs. CCTV’s Paul Barber reports.
Ukrainian police make a shocking discovery in Sloviansk earlier this year. Hidden in a garage behind old cardboard boxes, a cache of deadly weapons and ammunition.
They found several anti-tank rockets and mines, around 15 hand grenades, and hundreds of bullets.
Police said there’s evidence these arms were going to be smuggled out of the country and sold on the black market.
“Of course, anyone who has the will and the means tries to get into this so-called business. Organized criminal groups have always traded weapons. Now the channel for buying these illegal weapons has widened,” Spokeswoman of Security Service of Ukraine, Olena Hitlyanska said.
The 28-month separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 9,000 lives, and may cause more deaths far from Ukrainian battlefields. Weapons have been disappearing from government arsenals-and sent to irregular units unable to control them.
Security officials as well as rebels say weapons are now being channeled out of the conflict zone, helped by a tenuous ceasefire reached last year. Police blockades like these have been set up to stem the flow.
“Our two checkpoints are the last on the border with the Kharkiv region. That is why our direct task is not to allow transportation of weaponry, ammunition and explosives into peaceful territory,” Sloviansk Police Captain Oleksandr Taran said.
But Sloviansk’s police chief said it’s often Ukrainian soldiers who get caught smuggling weapons.
“It’s mostly people trying to take them arms home for the sake of it. Some say “I forgot.” Some say “It’s for fishing” or “It’s a present for a friend” and then we hear about these things blowing up in yards, in apartments, and on the streets all around Ukraine,” Sloviansk Police Chief Serhiy Alyoshin said. “And the most serious problem is that our children become victims.”
Experts said most of the guns and heavy weapons aren’t likely to end up with Western Europe’s criminal underground.
Instead, authorities suspect many of the smuggled arms getting trafficked on the black market could be destined for other conflict zones, like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
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