April 10, 2024

Black Market for Weapons Growing


Black Market for Weapons Growing
104th Guards Air Assault Regiment. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, Wikimedia Commons.

Military courts in 2023 dealt with 179 cases of weapons trafficking, marking a significant increase compared to previous years.

Seventy-eight individuals involved in Russia's War on Ukraine face charges. These individuals are accused of transporting weapons from the frontlines through occupied territories, with the majority of convictions handed down by courts in the Rostov region, which also includes cases against military personnel operating in newly annexed regions.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Global Organized Crime Index reported a growth in the black market for weapons, positioning Russia as the second-largest market in Europe after Ukraine, and on par with countries like Pakistan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Nigeria.

Not surprisingly, experts attribute the surge to ongoing military operations. In 2023, military courts processed double the number of cases related to trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives compared to the pre-war period. Conversely, the number of similar cases in civilian courts remained unchanged.

Instances of theft from military facilities contribute to the proliferation of illegal arms. In one case, Alexander Andreychuk, a mobilized soldier, stole weaponry from a base camp in Ukraine, attempting to sell it in Russia before being apprehended by authorities. Similarly, military officer Roman Tseluiko stole a Kalashnikov assault rifle and ammunition from a weapons storage room, aiming to sell them, but was intercepted by security forces.

Weapons from the conflict zones often find their way onto Russian online platforms such as Telegram channels and websites. Despite efforts by Roskomnadzor to block these platforms since 2016, including well-known sites like the Cherny Rynok (Black Market) weapons store, illicit trade persists as trades simply shift domains to evade censorship. In September 2022, Cherny Rynok expanded its operations, offering a range of weapons and permits, with over 237 web addresses leading to illicit gun stores now blocked nationally. More than half were added in 2023.

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