Home » Some US arms shipments to Ukraine ending up in hands of criminal gangs, arms traffickers, watchdog says

Some US arms shipments to Ukraine ending up in hands of criminal gangs, arms traffickers, watchdog says

by Mahmmod Shar

Report says criminal gangs have stockpiled rifles, grenade launchers and thousands of rounds of ammunition

By Michael Lee

U.S. Defense Department arms shipments to Ukraine have come with very little oversight, and at times end up in the hands of criminal gangs and weapons traffickers.

Criminal gangs within Ukraine have gotten their hands on some U.S. shipments of grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles, bulletproof vests, and thousands of rounds of ammunition since the U.S. began supplying the Ukrainian military with arms, according to a Department of Defense Inspector General report obtained by the Heritage Foundation.

The 19-page report, which was issued last October and only became public after a Heritage Foundation Freedom of Information Act request, details specific instances in which U.S. shipments were intercepted by criminal actors in Ukraine. In one example, Ukraine’s security services, Sluzhba Bezpeky Ukrainy (SBU), disrupted a plot by gangs to pose “as members of a humanitarian aid organization who distributed bulletproof vests.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Mykolaiv region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“The group illicitly imported the vests and sold them, rather than distributed them to Ukrainian forces. A member of the group was found with a cache of vests worth $17,000,” the report reads.

In another instance the SBU “disrupted a group of arms traffickers who were selling weapons and ammunition stolen from the front lines in southern Ukraine,” the report said.

In other instances, criminal groups were found to be storing weapons sent to Ukraine by the United States.

“In mid-August 2022, the SBU disrupted a group of volunteer battalion members who took more than 60 rifles and almost 1,000 rounds of ammunition and stored them illegally in a warehouse, presumably for sale on the black market,” the report reads.

The U.S. has sent over $100 billion in aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last year, a figure that includes military, humanitarian and financial aid. But there has at times been a lack of oversight to ensure that aid is reaching the correct places, which the report blamed on a lack of U.S. presence in the country.

“During the evaluation, we found that the DoD was unable to provide‘[end-use] monitoring(EUM) in accordance with DOD policy because of limited U.S. presence in Ukraine,” the report said. “Therefore, we are issuing this report identifying the challenges faced by DoD personnel responsible for conducting EUM and Enhanced EUM (EEUM) when there are limited or no U.S. personnel present in the area the equipment is being used.” 

Biden Ukraine
President Biden and Ukraines President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visit St. Michael’s cathedral in Kyiv. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment. 

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