Archive for January 22nd, 2018

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A return to the firearms issue (after the latest Odessa murders)

January 22, 2018

Way back in July 2015, an entry appeared relating to the matter of illicit firearms in circulation within Ukraine.

To be blunt, very little has changed regarding the causes and proposed cures since that entry, although clearly the number of seized illicit firearms has increased due to increased policing activity – be that increased activity terrorism or criminally driven.

In July 2015 the blog stated – Discounting lawfully issued weaponry to those on active service, clearly there is a need to review existing firearms laws, deciding what weapons can be privately held and those that will be prohibited by law, how and where they must be registered, how they must be stored and how they can (or cannot) be carried in public places – All the usual parameters to legitimate private firearm ownership.  (Whether or not there would be a need for legislative changes after that review remains to be seen.)

Thereafter providing a legal window for those holding currently anonymous/unregistered weapons that they will legally be allowed to hold the opportunity to identify and register those weapons with the State would seem rather sensible – together with an amnesty for surrendering all weapons that will be prohibited by law from being privately held, post any review.  Accompany any amnesty windows with a “buy back” incentive, offering the cash value of the weapons surrendered.

The result being all illicitly held firearms/weapons/heavy weapons – having given the nation opportunity to legalise the currently illegitimate – would fall under the reviewed (and possibly unchanged) firearms legislation – or terrorist legislation where appropriate.

No amount of legislation or amnesty opportunities will account for all the weaponry that has seeped, and will continue to seep, across Ukraine.  It would be a fantasy to think that organised crime, vigilantes, or “swivel-eyed underground groups” will not retain weaponry, appoint quatermasters, and secrete weapons for “future operations”/”just in case”.  No doubt illicit arms stashes will be found a decade from now, buried, hidden etc., and no doubt many will be used in illegal activity in the years ahead too.

The point being however, if new temporary legislation relating to the illegal possession of weapons on the street will be classed as terrorism, should it not be accompanied by the opportunity to legalise – or surrender – currently illicit and unregistered weaponry held, that does not and will not appear on the street, to owners who can then be held accountable for the weapons they now possess – thus beginning to address what will be a very difficult future issue.

Does it not seem sensible to start a process of bringing illicit weaponry into the legal realm, or providing opportunity to depose of it without legal consequence via amnesty, and thus begin to account for it and its ownership as soon as possible – particularly that illicit and anonymous weaponry held outside of the ATO zone?”

To be blunt it still seems very sensible in 2018 considering the lack legislative and review progress over the issue.

But what is the extent of the seepage in both numbers and geographical area from the occupied Donbas, vis a vis and also plus the historical gun trafficking figures?

Leaving aside grenades and other weaponry that are not strictly firearms (of long or short barrels), clearly some illicit firearms have absolutely nothing to do with the occupied Donbas.

The very recent and tragic murder of a police officer in Odessa by Valentine Doroshenko (leader of the “Stalin Party”, and a genuinely mentally unwell individual from his youth) was not the result of a firearm from the occupied Donbas.

Indeed the firearms recovered from Mr Doroshenko’s (literally) underground workshop in the photograph to the left tell their own story.

The late Mr Doroshenko, mentally unwell as he was, clearly manufactured his own firearms.

This is not an isolated case.

There are fairly frequent reports of arrests in the Odessa Oblast relating to the reactivation and/or conversation of firearms.   The purpose of reactivation and/or conversion for many arrested for engaging in such practices is to sell them – and they do indeed sell.

It thus follows that every such arrest and any subsequent conviction increases not only detected crime statistics, but also, a priori, gun trafficking statistics fairly often.

Ergo, if there are fairly frequent arrests of those converting and/or reactivating firearms in Odessa, does demand outstrip supply for firearms seeping from the occupied Donbas, or is supply from the occupied Donbas not enough to meet the demand for illicit firearms in Odessa Oblast?

Is it perhaps that these are two distinct markets with very little smudging where military grade firearms and home manufactured and/or re-engineered weapons meet?

Is this distinction based upon price and/or contacts/accessibility – or both?

Are there any statistics that specifically separate illicit firearms seeping from the occupied Donbas vis a vis illicit firearms statistics as a whole?  What is the methodology used?  How accurately can the history of a firearm be confirmed or assessed?

How many weapons are a legacy of post-Soviet Ukraine – be they legitimate or illicit?  That number will not necessarily have increased.  Thus that number, plus reactivations/conversions, minus seizures equates to an increase or decrease?

What of firearms destined for the Ukrainian military that never arrived, but “went missing” en route?  What of those “liberated” from armouries in 2014 when “needs must”?

How many ATO veterans illicitly hold “mementos”?

What parameters can manufacturer, age, caliber, and maintenance say about a firearm’s history and source – and does that help identify what is truly seepage from the occupied territories vis a vis what was there before the war but otherwise hidden?

Odessa has always been a smuggling hub – weapons are no exception.  Before the collapse of the USSR weapons were smuggled through Odessa – to which the activities of Leonid Minin and associates are testament.  Nothing has changed regarding that smuggling ability.  What has changed is that the destinations of Yugoslavia and Transnistria are no longer end theatres.  (In fact those regions, particularly the former Yugoslavia, possibly still have more illicit and/or unregistered firearms than Ukraine.)

Odessa remains a source, hub and destination for all manner of organised (and disorganised) smuggling and associated organised (and disorganised) criminality.  The longstanding “southern route” (either land or sea) remains the “southern route” in which Odessa plays a major criminal role – be it guns, drugs, people (both smuggling and trafficking), or counterfeit goods.  Like all such illicit routes, the traffic is not one-way, but runs in both directions.

The most recent academic papers shed some light on the matter – but clearly there is further research work to be done.  The conclusions in the above link take a reader back to the proposals of the blog entry of July 2015.

There appears to be little appetite for either a thorough (and evidence based) review of existing firearms legislation, or new or amended legislation to address (and perhaps tackle) the current firearms issues facing Ukraine.

It seems somewhat unlikely that the issue will be addressed before the elections in 2019, but eventually the issue will have to be addressed.

 

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