Miliary-grade weaponry in Ukraine is allegedly being sold on to international buyers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, including some hardware made in the United States.
Weapons that have been allegedly collected in Ukraine during the country’s ongoing war with Russia have been put up for sale on Telegram channels, including various kinds of automatic rifles and small arms.
Weapons said to be for sale include not just Ukrainian-origin arms such as old Soviet-era AK-47 rifles, but also American-made rifles like the M16 and the M4, along with other NATO member-origin firearms like the ARX 160 A1 manufactured by the Italian weapons company Beretta, newspaper Il Giornale reports.
It remains unclear whether the weapons are being sold by Ukrainians or by Russians who have collected them over the course of the war.
Canadian NGO Project Ploughshares warned earlier this year of the possibility that arms from the West could end up on the black market, with researcher Kelsey Gallagher saying there was a “real threat that the Ukrainian government can potentially not control all of these weapons.”
“Whenever this conflict does subside … these weapons aren’t just going to go ‘poof’ and disappear,” she added.
According to Il Giornale, the illegal arms trade often runs along the same routes as the illegal drug trade, noting that radical Islamic jihadist cells may be tempted to purchase weapons being sold through encrypted apps.
During the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Islamic extremists called on jihadists to take advantage of the war, with the Islamic State terror organisation recommending supporters use the conflict to collect weapons that could be used in terror attacks, for example.
“To the brothers, supporters of the Islamic State in Russia and Ukraine: Seize the opportunity, brothers, and collect weapons – for weapons have been widely distributed to civilians – then attack the crusaders,” one Islamic State jihadist urged.
An al-Qaeda sympathiser from Jordan also described the conflict as a “divine gift” for Islam, saying: “Let Muslims see this war as a Divine gift to the Muslims [in Ukraine], in Russia, and in the entire world. For those who contemplate it, there are indications that it will change the face of the world, and if the Muslims take advantage of it, it will be a large building block that will advance them towards the renewal of their glory.”