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21.7.2019 : 19:12 : +0200

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Ukraine

The ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine has led to the proliferation of well-armed non-state armed groups at Europe's borders. While the armed conflict may be geographically contained, its small arms are not. Reports suggest the growing proliferation of small arms from the conflict zone to other parts of Ukraine, including cases of arms smuggling and use in non-conflict-related criminality. These incidents are illustrative of the long-term security challenges that the current crisis will pose to both Ukraine and Europe in general if the issue of small arms proliferation is not adequately tackled.

The Briefing Paper ‘Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Ukraine’ examines the measurement of illicit arms flows in Ukraine in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 16. Under Target 16.4, the 2030 Development Agenda considers the flows of illicit arms as an impediment to sustainable development and calls on states to reach a significant reduction in such flows.

Based on interviews carried out in Kiev in addition to desk research, this analysis outlines the sources of illicit arms flows in Ukraine and the status of government plans or actions to counter the problem, the trafficking routes used to smuggle weapons, and key indicators of illicit arms flows in the period 2010–16.

The paper finds that significant numbers of illicit weapons are in circulation in Ukraine. This situation is exacerbated by a number of factors, including the large number of weapons left in the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 (and the resultant looting of government stocks), and weapons inflows across uncontrolled borders. Major problems are caused by the inadequacies of the legal system regulating the possession and use of small arms, and the lack of a central register of firearms, both of which make the measurement of illicit arms flows extremely difficult.

While some data is available about arms seizures, it is not comprehensive enough to act as an indicator to measure progress towards meeting Target 16.4. In light of this, the paper explores additional indicators that may help to track illicit flows, focusing on firearms-related violence as a useful additional measurement.