Friday, September 11, 2015

Weapons from the Donbas Bleeding into Ukraine as Well as Back into Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 11 – The enormous number of weapons in the Donbas as a result of the actions of pro-Moscow forces in that Ukraine region are already casting a shadow on the rest of Ukraine, something Vladimir Putin probably welcomes, as well as on adjoining areas of the Russian Federation, something he certainly does not.

            Today, Kyiv’s “Segodnya” newspaper reports that “Ukraine is filling up with illegal weapons from the zone of military actions” both because individuals bring in weapons for their personal use or because of organized contraband networks (

            This influx of weapons not only makes possible the political use of weapons such as the grenade tossed in front of the Verkhovna Rada on August 31 but also allows for the spread of increasingly violent crime and numerous weapons-related accidents across the entire country, the paper continues.

            The paper offers numerous examples and then suggests that the authorities must improve the monitoring of weapons in the Donbas, control any that are taken out, and increase penalties for those who illegally bring in or keep weapons.

            Dmitry Tymchuk, a military experts and Verkhovna Rada deputy, says that are present “no one can say precisely how many weapons are already on the territory of Ukraine.” But it is clear that the largest source of them comes from contraband networks rather than from the decisions of individuals to take guns or grenades home with them.

            Officials have to do more to track how weapons found got into the country, he argues, and he also suggests that the situation could be improved if Kyiv adopted a law legalizing the possession of guns for self-defense but requiring that all such weapons be registered with the police.

            Vladimir Fesenko, a Ukrainian political scientist, disagrees. Adopting such a law would make the situation worse, increasing the number of gunds and leading to a rise in violent crime. If more people have more guns, they will certainly use them, he argues. Thus adopting such a law would be “a most enormous mistake.”

            He urges tighter control at the borders of the combat zone and also the establishment of a “buy back” program in which the government would pay people who would agree to turn over the weapons in their possession voluntarily.”

            Meanwhile, illegal weapons are flowing into the Russian Federation. (For background, see In today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” commentator Dmitry Oreshkin suggests it poses a serious problem for the Russian authorities (

            As a result of this influx of guns, the political analyst says, “the Kremlin is now encountering an obvious problem: people accustomed to living for a year and a half under conditions of complete illegality to solving their problems with the help of guns are leaving Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts” are bringing their weapons and their values with them.

            Now that Putin is wrapping up his adventure there, Oreshkin says, these people have no future or any willingness to return to a peaceful life. As a result, there is “an obvioius threat of the growth of banditism and an obvious problem for the FSB: how is it to struggle with these militants who were thrown into the Donbas when they come here?”

            Almost certainly, he continues, the FSB and the Russian police will deal with such people “decisively” just as they did after the Afghan war. The FSB will say: “we didn’t send you there, and that means we don’t owe you anything. Go and live in a camp for refugees but don’t steal” or the consequences will be extremely severe.

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