Russia Concerned About Arms Smuggling…From Ukraine

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Russia has begun digging trenches along the Rostov region bordering Russia and the Ukrainian break away provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. About 100 kilometers of 4 meter wide and 2 meter deep trenches have been dug so far. Border Guards Service spokesman Andrej Timofeev stated that the purpose of the trenches is to prevent arms smuggling from Ukraine into Russia. So far, around 60 smuggling attempts have been stopped at the border, leading to the arrest of 130 people and the confiscation of hundreds of firearms and explosive devices.

The fear is that the arms smugglers are attempting to sell weapons acquired in the Ukraine to jihadists in the North Caucasus districts of Russia. Military analyst Anton Lavrov notes that the arms are coming from the separatist republics in Ukraine due to a period of de-escalation. Ironically, it appears that pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine are trying to earn money by selling weapons to criminal elements in Russia – who then sell arms to anti-Russian jihadists in the Caucasus.

Russian police last year raided an arms smuggling ring that was sending weapons intended for customers in Dagestan and Chechnya through Ukraine, and earlier this month four people from North Ossetia were arrested for illegally dealing weapons to customers located in the heavily Muslim federal republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.  Given the support for Islamic State among jihadists in Chechnya, it would come as no surprise for many of these arms to be funneled into Iraq and Syria. This also parallels a similar case back in 2005 where the FBI arrested several men accused of planning to import arms from former Soviet arsenals in the Caucasus to the United States. In that case the men agreed to sell weapons to an undercover FBI agent pretending to be a member of Al Qaeda.

Islamic State, in the “Black Flags Over Rome” issue of Dabiq magazine, mentioned the importance of the post-Soviet arms trade and smuggling in supplying jihadists with arms and equipment. As Russia attempts to tighten up the porous and destabilized region created from its own military aggression in the Ukraine, their attempts to tamp down on arms smuggling shows the difficulty in cracking down on illegal transnational arms traffic, and the ready abundance of criminal networks willing and able to supply weapons to jihadists across the globe.

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