The Center for Security Studies “CENSS” continues to monitor the situation with illegal trafficking and the use of weapons in Ukraine. The study, presented in February 2020, provided the basis for further identification of the main tendencies and indicators showing the state of illegal trafficking and the use of weapons.
In this article we publish some of the results of our study concerning certain tendencies that have been observed in this sphere taking into account their relevance and expected impact on the state of illegal trafficking and the use of weapons in the future.
CENSS experts have analyzed cases of trafficking and use of illegal weapons, ammunition and explosives in various regions of Ukraine in January-March 2020. Therefore, a total of 414 events, related to the use, possession and illicit arms proliferation were identified in January-March. Illegal possession and use of weapons were the most recorded cases according to the results of the study.
For example, on February 4 in Vinnytsia Oblast, three local residents of the age 21, 34 and 36 were injured by a grenade explosion in a vehicle. There was a conflict between men, during which one of them took out a grenade, preliminarily RGD-5, and armed it. All participants of the conflict were injured. 
On February 24, in Dnipro, five persons were fighting with the use of a rubber-bullet handgun, as a result, three participants were injured. According to law enforcement officers, the conflict was of domestic nature. 
In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a criminal intelligence investigator of the Nikopol police department was shot during a conflict with a local resident. Investigator’s body with gunshot wounds was found in the “Toyota Land Cruiser”. 
During January-March, several cases of clandestine arms manufacturing were also identified. The Security Service of Ukraine blocked the clandestine manufacture and proliferation of firearms in Cherkasy. According to the investigation, two residents of the regional center were engaged in the modification of starter pistols of “BLOW” and “STALKER” brands to firearms. The workshops were set up at the place of residence. They sold finished goods through their own connections, particularly in criminal circles. 
In Kyiv, the group, which included three residents of the capital, set up the modification of weapons, including outdated versions, to firearms. Workshops for the manufacture of munition were set up in the production premises at the workplace and on the premises of two members of the group. Through specialized Internet platforms, they offered clients ready-made goods, which customers received by mail. 
The monitoring results showed that most of the 414 “armed” events in January-March 2020, were recorded in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Kherson Oblasts, as well as in Kyiv. Fewer of such cases have been recorded in Ivano-Frankivsk, Zaporizhzhia, Rivne and Vinnytsia Oblasts in the period of three months.
The statistics of places where illegal weapons are identified are as follows:
It should be noted that during January-March 2020, according to the results of the study, a large activity with illegal trafficking or use of weapons among groups of persons, in particular, organized groups and criminal organizations were recorded. In just three months, more than half of the 129 offenses committed under aggravating circumstances were committed by members of the aforementioned groups (73 cases), previously convicted persons (30 cases) and persons in a state of alcohol intoxication (26 cases).
For example, on March 27, an armed criminal group was detained in Dnipro. Four residents of Dnipro and Kamianske are suspected of a series of high-profile robberies in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. The members of the criminal group are from 25 to 30 years old. Five handguns, more than 150 rounds of ammunition, knives, bulletproof body vests, balaclavas, radios, brass knuckles and other items used to commit crimes were seized from the detainees. 
On March 31, in Zakarpattia, officers of the Security Service of Ukraine detained an organized criminal group, whose members created artificial conflict situations, for the resolution of which demanded money from the citizens. Imposing “tribute” on the representatives of commercial structures, they “beat out” the non-existent debts. One of the leaders of an organized criminal group is a deputy of the Svaliavska district council .
In February, police officers detained a criminal group in Dnipro, members of which are suspected of a series of particularly serious crimes. The group consisted of 6 persons. One of the latest crimes was the kidnapping of a 30-year-old man and extortion of USD 20 000 from him at gunpoint. 
A similar criminal group was operating in Odesa as well. It consisted of previously convicted representatives of one of the national minorities, and the activities of the gang were controlled by a local “criminal kingpin”, who is hiding from Ukrainian justice. The members of the group were involved in a number of assaults with the use of firearms, robberies and extortion of money in the region. 
An analysis of 414 cases of illegal trafficking and use of weapons has shown that law enforcement officers most often identify explosive devices – mines, grenades, TNT slabs and fuse caps – at least 363 units, as well as handguns and revolvers; 170 units of those were seized in the first three months of 2020. The third place with the number of 163 units takes grenade launchers and rocket systems. Law enforcement officers also reported on the seizure of almost 33 000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers during January-March of 2020.
Thus, in March, the police officers seized the arsenal of weapons from a resident of Cherkasy. A 59-year-old man kept the weapons in his own garage. As a result of the measures taken, the police officers seized F-1 and RGD-5 grenades, nine handguns of various brands with loaded magazines, a rifle and submachine gun Shpagin. Also, integral parts (barrels, bayonets, trigger and bolts) and more than 1 500 rounds of ammunition of various calibers were seized. 
In the same month in Kirovohrad Oblast, one of the region’s residents clandestinely manufactured explosive devices for sale. He set up a workshop in a rented garage, and the submunitions were taken out of the Joint Forces Operation area. Law enforcement officers detained the intruder in Oleksandria after selling of 13 improvised explosive devices. During the searches at the place of residence, the officers of the Security Service of Ukraine seized 4 more explosive devices. 
Monitoring data indicate the circumstances of criminal activity and the frequency of some cases. For example, in one out of five cases, crimes are committed by groups of individuals, including criminal organizations, and there is a continuing tendency of identification of weapons on persons who use or proliferate narcotic/psychotropic substances (in one out of nine cases).
In particular, in February, in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast police officers detained an organized group of drug dealers, from whom more than a million UAH worth of drugs were seized. The group consisted of 5 men aged 30-53 years. More than 11 kg of drugs “cannabis”, methamphetamine and two 2 handguns were seized at the place of their residence. 
The new tendency in March became the so-called “offenses committed during quarantine” that was introduced in Ukraine to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. Criminals often wear protective (medical) masks on their faces, which makes it difficult to identify them, and they also count on the fact that law enforcement officers are involved in the implementation of special measures in the quarantine conditions and therefore are unable to perform their duties as usual.
For example, five persons tried to seize 100 000 medical masks from the entrepreneur at gunpoint in Kyiv. 
In Zakarpattia, a group of unidentified persons, wearing hooded clothes and concealing their faces with medical masks, armed with a handgun with a suppressor and a folding knife, attacked a local resident. The criminals threatened the victim with a gun, then fired a series of shots in his direction, after which they seized a bag with more than UAH 800 000 in cash. 
Taking advantage of the fact that the law enforcement officers are involved in the implementation of the quarantine measures, a group of foreigners in masks, at gunpoint committed a robbery against a businessman who was engaged in currency exchange and seized UAH 3 million from the victim. 
Also interesting are the general tendencies in crime rates after several weeks of quarantine, which began in March. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the overall quarantine crime rate has decreased by about 30% . The significant increase in property offenses predicted by some experts has not yet been recorded, but analysts from the Center for Security Studies “CENSS” note that, unfortunately, the number of offenses related to illegal trafficking and the use of weapons has not decreased even during this period. Usually, we record more than 120 reports of illegal trafficking and use of weapons by law enforcement agencies every month, and March is no exception (about 150 reports were recorded). On the contrary, offenses are becoming more and more daring, which is further confirmed by the events recorded in early April. Therefore, on April 4 and April 6 there were several high-profile targeted assassinations in Ukraine at once.
On April 4 in Chernivtsi, just in the street, an unidentified person inflicted a deadly gunshot wound on a local resident who, according to media reports, was involved in smuggling goods into the EU countries.  The wounded man was taken to hospital, but his life could not be saved. Armed men accompanied an ambulance on the way to the hospital and then surrounded the hospital itself. 
On April 6, an armed conflict with firearms occurred in Mykolaiv: a sniper shot in the head killed the businessman Mykhailo Tytov. Law enforcement officers identified a weapon, the Saiga semi-automatic rifle of 7.62 calibers. As it turned out, this semi-automatic rifle was stolen in 2018 and had previously belonged to an individual. 
Amidst these two high-profile assaults in April, it is also worth noting the activities of illegal arms dealers, who proliferated them through contacts in criminal circles.
In Zakarpattia Oblast, the Security Service of Ukraine exposed an employee of the Nature Park “Synevyr” on the illegal proliferation of firearms and ammunition. The man was selling Makarov pistols with a suppressor and ammunition, as well as eight RGD-5 grenades. According to the preliminary version of the investigation, the worker searched for his clients through personal contacts, in particular in criminal circles. Information about the illegal transfer of identified weapons and ammunition from abroad is being checked. 
In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, the Security Service of Ukraine blocked the activities of an organized group of three residents of the region, including one former policeman. Members of the group organized the illegal proliferation of firearms and ammunition, seeking clients through personal connections, in particular in criminal circles. Three RGD-5 and F-1 grenades with fuses, several short rifles and handguns and nearly 11 000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers were seized. And in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, a clandestine workshop for arms manufacture was found. There, the intruders modified the traumatic weapons into firearms and also restored the old weapons. The group members searched for their clients via the Internet and mailed the goods to the clients .
In our follow-up publications, based on the study conducted by CENSS in January-March 2020, we will continue to familiarize you with the state of illegal trafficking and the use of weapons.
Note. The study was conducted by analyzing the information obtained as a result of special processing of information received from public sources (official websites of state and local authorities, units of law enforcement agencies of central and regional levels; their profiles in social networks (Twitter, Facebook) as well as Ukrainian digital mass media), state statistical reporting, the unified state register of court decisions, sociological research data.