Ukrainian Police Bust Online Market For Military Equipment

KYIV -- Amphibious armored-personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, off-road transport trucks, tanker trucks, and trailers were among some 200 objects that have been seized by Ukrainian police after being offered for sale online.

Vyacheslav Pechenenko, regional police chief of the Zhytomyr region, said on March 27 that the vehicles were discovered by police while investigating an oil pipeline leak in the town of Novohrad-Volynskiy some two weeks ago.

They were seized this week during raids by his officers and local military prosecutors.

Police said the vehicles were for sale on the Internet.

Pechenenko said that “as of now, the origin of the hardware is being looked into, including when it was registered at military units.”

Novohrad-Volynskiy is the headquarters for several Ukrainian military units subordinate to Operational Command North, including the 30th Mechanized Brigade, the 12th Operative Support Regiment, and the 54th Scout Battalion, the Kyiv Post reported.

​The seizure of the military vehicles and equipment has sparked a scandal in Ukrainian defense circles and shone a light on a murky online marketplace where equipment made for the battlefields of eastern Ukraine is being offered for sale to civilians.

It is still unclear if any of the seized military equipment came from any of those units. Police did not say where the military items had been advertised.

An online search by RFE/RL revealed several listings for similar military materiel in Ukraine. Most were found on the OLX website, a popular online marketplace that revealed dozens of military vehicles and equipment for sale.

Ukraine has spent much time and money in the past four years revamping its once decimated military. Any suggestion that it may be involved in corruption or that technology or equipment has leaked from its depots is embarrassing.

The former presidential spokesman for the military operation in eastern Ukraine, Andriy Lysenko, who is now a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office, claimed the police information was “untrue” and said the equipment had been “demilitarized.”

“In fact, the equipment in question is not combat and is not military at all,” Lysenko wrote on Facebook.

The news filled presidential adviser Yuriy Biriukov with indignation. In a rambling post on Facebook, Biriukov called the reports “fake news” and their authors “common liars, who rejoice in fake news, together with those who destroyed our army.” Punctuating his post, he added that they were “worse than the enemy.”

Rather than having been stolen, Biriukov suggested the vehicles were more likely to have been military surplus bought by civilians under a government decree signed in 2008 by then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, now the leading political opponent of President Petro Poroshenko.

He claimed that none of those vehicles specifically had been recorded as ever having been used by the military in the past 10 years.

Zhytomyr police said they were working to track down the origin of the equipment. They are treating the case as one possibly involving official embezzlement and abuse of power, the punishment for which can be between three and eight years imprisonment.