Czech minister: Ukraine arms smuggling risk part of Kremlin propaganda

European countries must continue supporting Ukraine with weapons even though there is a risk these may be smuggled back to the EU, the Czech interior ministry said, adding that the Kremlin continues to peddle its arms smuggling narrative to weaken Kyiv.

In July 2022, Europol warned that the proliferation of firearms in Ukraine could increase the number of weapons smuggled into the EU through established smuggling routes or internet platforms.

However, no such case has yet been detected, the Czech Interior Ministry said.

“So far, there have been no seizures of smuggled weapons in the Czech Republic or in other member states that were supplied by European states as military aid to Ukraine,” Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman Hana Malá told EURACTIV.cz.

Experts warn that risks connected with smuggling are inevitable, especially with light weapons.

“In armed conflicts, this is a frequent concomitant phenomenon that is difficult to eliminate, and we have seen it, for example, in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia,” described Richard Stojar from the Centre for Security and Military-Strategic Studies at the University of Defence in Brno.

According to him, something similar cannot be ruled out even today, as state authorities lose direct, consistent control over armaments during conflicts.

“The Czech Republic and the EU, as well as Ukraine, are aware of this risk,” the Czech Interior Ministry added.

Experts and authorities alike are unanimous in stressing that these risks must not mean that arms deliveries will cease.

“First and foremost, the Czech Republic supports Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The risk of arms smuggling from Ukraine to the EU is, by the way, one of the very frequent narratives of Russian propaganda aimed at weakening support for Ukraine from their Western allies,” a Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman emphasised.

(Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)

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