Ukrainians Do Not Hurry to Part with Illegal Weapons


The capture of hostages in a bus by an armed man in Lutsk once again attracted the attention of Ukrainian society to the problem of illegal arms in our country. After all, Maksym Kryvosh, who detained people for about 12 hours, turned out to be well armed. After his arrest, an automatic gun, a pistol, a hand grenade and ammunition were found in his possession.

Law enforcement officers promptly established that a few days before the seizure of the bus with people, Kryvosh received a parcel from Kharkiv. Security forces searched the sender and seized several pistols and hand grenades. The man denies sending weapons, although he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. He notes that he kept everything for his own protection, but did not cooperate with terrorists.

Meanwhile, Kharkiv law enforcement officers consider the detained man a weapon dealer. The Head of the Regional Police Department, Valery Sokurenko, stated in this regard: “He sent parcels not only to Lutsk, but also to other places. He generally traded in weapons and ammunition. We track everything.”

As it was established, the weapons and ammunition of the probable Kharkiv accomplice of Kryvosh were brought from the area of ​​the anti-terrorist operation in Donbas of 2014-2015. Law enforcement officers consider that  the weapon of the Lutsk terrorist is also from there.

Security Officers Are Aware of the Scale of the Problem

It is noteworthy that a few days before the hostages were captured in Lutsk, a coordination meeting of representatives of various law enforcement agencies took place in the Office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine. The issues of public order violation in Ukraine, including the use of weapons, were discussed at this meeting.

In his report, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, “According only to official data, more than 78,000 various kinds of weapon were stolen and lost during 2013-2016. Almost all of it is in illegal circulation.. In the first half of 2020, 3,400 criminal offenses related to illegal handling of weapons, ammunition or explosives were documented. More than 2,000 people have been reported as suspects. 616 rifled firearms, up to 2,000 grenades and 101 grenade launchers were seized from the illicit circulation”.

According to the Minister, 193 crimes were committed with the use of firearms this year. He also added that an effective way to combat the illicit circulation of weapons is to block the channels of their receipt, especially in the area of the Joint Forces Operation in Donbas.

According to the Office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine, in 2019, 6,204 violations of the law were registered in the country, which were classified as illicit circulation of weapons, ammunition and explosives. Only 100 of these crimes involved owners of officially registered hunting weapons.

How Much Weapon Is “In Hand”?

Many people who understand the circulation of unregistered weapons (experts, the military, law enforcement, representatives of public organizations) say that since 2017, not manyweapons have arrived from Donbas. Then, the SSU Anti-Terrorist Center imposed restrictions on the import and export of personal weapons to the territory of the Joint Forces Operation. Checks at checkpoints have become more stringent.

However, in the period of 2014-2015, whole streams of unregistered weapon and ammunition “flowed” from Donbas due to the low level of control. Now, this product is on the black market and you can buy it not only through friends, but also on the Internet for a  relatively low cost.

In 2017, the Head of the Ukrainian Association of Weapon Owners, Heorhiy Uchaikin, claimed that Ukrainians had almost 5 million illegal weapons in their hands and that their number was constantly growing. He clarified that those were only small weapons: pistols, carbines, automatic guns. But how many people have grenade launchers, grenades, explosives or machine guns, no one can even say.

However, the fact that such weapons exist is evidenced by at least such facts as shooting from the grenade launchers of the Polish Consulate in Lutsk (May 2017), the TV channel 112 Ukraine building (July 2019), an entertainment complex on the outskirts of Mukachevo (July 2020), regular incidents with the use of hand grenades, etc.

Experts from the independent research project The Small Arms Survey also claimed that, in 2017, there were approximately 3 to 5 million unregistered weapons in Ukraine. It was noted that every year this number increases by tens of thousands.

Ways to Solve the Problem

Currently, the security forces do not offer a very wide range of measures that would reduce the number of illegal weapons in hands of Ukrainians. Of course, one of the main methods is still to strengthen control over the “black market,” seizure of weapons and detention of traders.

The Ministry of the Interior continues to organise “volunteer surrender months,” offering citizens who brought unregistered weapons to law enforcement officers the opportunity to avoid liability and gain a small financial reward.

On the other hand, some experts claim that Ukrainians are not inclined to voluntarily part with their weapons, as many in Ukraine believe that law enforcement cannot effectively protect citizens now, so everyone relies solely on their own strength and resources.

Authorities are offering to allow free weapon circulation (this is rifle) to simplify the rules for its acquisition and not to prosecute those who decide to legalise illegal weapons. Fighters for the right of Ukrainians to own weapons freely claim that liberalisation of this sphere will reduce the crime rate. However, the authorities fear the exact opposite effect – a surge in the streets of violence with weapons.

In September 2019 President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky rejected an electronic petition on the legislative regulation of weapon circulation in Ukraine. He explained that he considered it a premature step.

Bohdan Marusyak

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