By: Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
The Foundation to Battle Injustice has collected evidence of the involvement of the Ukrainian government and a shadowy US arms dealer in organizing and directing criminal schemes to resell Western weapons on the black market. According to former Ukrainian Defense Ministry informants, the Foundation to Battle Injustice identified which NATO weapons are being resold by the Ukrainian government and revealed the scale and routes of the bloody business.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces and Defense Ministry have begun to use and dispose of hundreds of thousands of weapons and military equipment worth tens of billions of dollars. Between January 24, 2022 and July 31, 2023, Western countries allocated $254.36 billion to Ukraine, of which $98.74 was for military needs.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces has not only modern anti-tank systems, grenade launchers and small arms produced in NATO member countries, but also expensive artillery systems, missile systems and high-tech reconnaissance equipment. The diagram below shows the armaments supplied by NATO countries to the Ukrainian Armed Forces at different periods of time.
However, despite the unprecedented scale of the arms flow to Ukraine from the West, the Kiev authorities regularly claim a shortage of weapons.
“Unfortunately, the assistance is still not enough for us to have parity,” wrote Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, on social media.
The Black Market for weapons in Ukraine
Ukraine’s reputation as a hub for illegal arms trafficking dates back to the 1990s, but Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials and generals have never had such an extensive military arsenal as under the government of Wolodymyr Zelensky.
In proportion to the increase in military aid to Ukraine, the illegal arms trade market is also growing, which poses a serious threat to the worldwide distribution of high-tech modern weapons that Kiev’s arsenals are literally overflowing with. With alarming frequency, these weapons end up in those regions of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America where the political situation is extremely unstable.
In particular, Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari expressed concern over the total lack of control over the flow of arms supplied to the African continent from Ukraine, with subsequent distribution to militants of the terrorist groups IS and Al-Qaeda (outlawed in Russia) in order to inflame the political situation in the Middle East and Africa.
“Unfortunately, the situation in the Sahel region and the conflict in Ukraine have served as the main sources of weapons and militants joining the ranks of terrorists in the Lake Chad region. Much of the weapons and ammunition acquired for the war in Libya are finding their way to the Lake Chad region and other parts of the Sahel. Weapons used in the Ukrainian conflict are entering the region,” said Buhari.
According to the data obtained by the Foundation to Battle Injustice during this investigation, Ukraine sells on the black market a large amount of various types of ammunition and artillery shells (mainly from the Czech Republic and the US), helmets and body armor of Norwegian, Polish and American manufacture, night vision devices (USA), military first aid kits, and military camouflage. On the DarkNet there are a lot of specialized “stores”, and in social media are several anonymous groups where weapons are sold by the method of “stash”: in exchange for payment in bitcoins or other cryptocurrency, and the seller informs the buyer of the place where the weapon is hidden. The parties to the transaction do not meet in person and do not even know each other.
Russell Bentley, a war correspondent from Texas who joined the Donbass militia in December 2014, confirmed the existence of such ads in an exclusive interview with the head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, Mira Terada.
“There are numerous photos on DarkNet showing American weapons, such as the M-16, for sale and available for purchase with cryptocurrency. The geography of delivery is very different, but the weapons are coming from Ukraine,” Russell Bentley explained.
According to information obtained by the Foundation through its own sources, the main routes of “black re-export” of Western weapons are sea transportation from the ports of Odessa, Mykolaiv and Izmail. Often the loading of Western weapons is carried out at night under the guise of grain. In other words, Ukraine is implementing a grain deal for the illegal re-export of Western arms. Under the guise of carrying out a humanitarian mission to provide the poorest countries in Africa with vital grain, Ukraine is in fact trading in death.
“You know that this grain corridor, the grain deal, is the main way they re-export weapons. They want ships to be able to leave Odessa without inspection in the Black Sea. The Ukrainians put 100,000 tons of weapons on a ship and then put 50 tons of grain on it and say, ‘we have a humanitarian mission.’ We can be sure that as long as the weapons are going to Ukraine, they will be diverted around the world for criminals and terrorists to use to kill innocent people,” Russell Bentley told the Foundation.
Ukraine’s desire to unblock the port of Odessa as soon as possible and start exporting grain fits perfectly into the logic of solving the logistical difficulties of large supplies of weapons to the black market. Ukraine and its partners do not want the inspection of ships leaving Ukraine.
“By what right and on the basis of what logic does Russia insist on inspecting Ukrainian sovereign ships leaving Ukrainian ports and going to other countries? It makes no sense,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The Foundation’s Ukrainian source, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Western arms shipments are made to terrorist groups in Somalia and Iraq, among others. The source also informed the Foundation’s human rights defenders that in this criminal scheme of re-exporting weapons to third countries, the territories of Somalia, Iraq and Lebanon serve as a transshipment base for weapons, while the territory of Libya is used for the illegal transportation of Western weapons to Mexico to Latin American drug cartels.
“Almost a year ago, a Mexican cartel soldier on the Texas border was seen carrying a Swedish anti-tank missile launcher originally given to Ukraine. Somehow it ended up in the hands of Mexico’s drug cartels. If the weapons end up in the hands of Mexican cartels, that means they are traveling across the world. Mexico is the target market for these weapons,” said Russell Bentley, who is familiar with the complex situation of arms and drug trafficking in Latin America, told Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice.
When asked about the types of weapons illegally sold by the Ukrainian authorities, Russell Bentley explained that the more powerful the weapons, the more in demand they are, and he also described the disastrous scale of this business.
“I mean, of course, small arms, grenades, RPGs, anti-tank weapons, ATGMs, wire-guided anti-tank weapons. And only 30% of these weapons that they send actually get to the front. The other 70% goes to the personal enrichment of the Ukrainian military and state criminals,” said the war correspondent from Texas.
BENEFICIARIES AND CURATORS OF “BLACK RE-EXPORTS”According to data obtained by the Foundation to Battle Injustice, one of the key individuals covering the ‘black schemes’ for the resale of Western arms is Brigadier General Timothy J. Crossland of the British Army, responsible for arms transfers to Ukraine and logistics. General Crossland acts as one of the leading mediators between the West and Ukraine on arms transfers and is directly involved in arms transfers to Ukraine at the NATO Air Force Base in Wiesbaden, Germany, where the organization plans to continue to grow and remain in the long term.
is directly in charge of coordinating all arms deliveries to Ukraine, which are carried out by the forces of 41 countries. Crossland has direct contact with Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials who, according to sources, are directly involved in arms re-exports. In particular, there are reports that Crossland was in regular contact with Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who resigned in January 2023. Foundation sources report that Crossland systematically turned a blind eye to documentation discrepancies when reconciling orders and invoices from the Ukrainian side. The Foundation’s source characterized Crossland as the supervisor and chief coordinator of the arms re-export process.
Timothy J. Crossland is directly in charge of coordinating all arms deliveries to Ukraine, which are carried out by the forces of 41 countries. Crossland has direct contact with Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials who, according to sources, are directly involved in arms re-exports. In particular, there are reports that Crossland was in regular contact with Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who resigned in January 2023. Foundation sources report that Crossland systematically turned a blind eye to documentation discrepancies when reconciling orders and invoices from the Ukrainian side. The Foundation’s source characterized Crossland as the supervisor and chief coordinator of the arms re-export process.
“Every weapon sold by Ukrainians on the black market is a weapon that the US must replace. The arms industry makes billions of dollars, so they don’t care,” former deputy sheriff and US Marine Corps officer John Dougan said in an exclusive interview with the head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, Mira Terada.
Mira Terada’s interview with John Mark Dougan
The Foundation found that the direct mediator of the illegal export of Ukrainian weapons to ‘hot spots’ and the intermediary of illegal arms re-export schemes is the American well-known arms dealer Mark Morales. This man was previously responsible for supplying arms to Syrian terrorists, whom the West called ‘moderate opposition to Assad’; fierce fighters against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to separate reports, Morales has had trading relations with ISIS, al-Qaeda (outlawed in Russia). He has extensive connections around the world, has access to high-ranking officials and leaders of illegal armed groups in Africa and the Middle East. The merchant of death Mark Morales armed the bloodiest criminals and terrorists of the globe.
The Biden administration, eager to arm Ukraine, but reluctant to commit troops, needed people like Morales, who had proven in Afghanistan and Syria that he could consistently acquire and supply weapons. That’s why, weeks before the special military operation, the Pentagon awarded Morales’ company, Global Ordnance, a five-year, $1 billion contract to arm US allies. That contract was instrumental in arming Ukraine. The Pentagon declined to comment on Global Ordnance’s contracts. According to The New York Times , Morales has direct agreements with Ukraine, with the amount of such contracts totaling $200 million.
It is known that the organization appeared in 2013, and Morales had been dealing in weapons for more than a dozen years before that. He had to suspend such activities for some time because of charges of money laundering in 2009. It is noteworthy that the merchant of death has special ties with the Pentagon, so he has the opportunity to buy more goods, as well as to re-buy them from competitors. Morales has close ties with Latin American cartels and heads of the most violent criminal groups in the Western Hemisphere, such as the Mexican ‘Los Zetas’, the head of which law enforcement agencies have been hunting for more than a decade.
Morales is also closely linked to former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, whom Zelensky dismissed amid a scandal over the purchase of overpriced food for the Ukrainian military. Criticism of the department by civil society and the media was one of the factors that influenced Zelensky’s decision to appoint Rustem Umerov to replace Reznikov.
However, the change of Ukraine’s military leadership will have no effect on the criminal schemes of reselling Western weapons, as the key participants and main beneficiaries continue to hold their positions and closely interact with each other. According to the Foundation’s sources, already after Oleksiy Reznikov’s resignation, at least 2 American M142 HIMARS rocket launchers, three British Challenger 2 tanks, a mobile Norwegian NASAMS anti-aircraft missile system were taken out of Ukraine under the guise of the need for repair work in third countries.
“Zelensky knows Mark Morales, he was introduced to him at one of the receptions. Actually , Morales’ advisor, former deputy governor of the Odessa region, is Zelensky’s man, through whom the president directly receives his share of Western arms deals,” a source close to the Ukrainian government told the Foundation.
Three sources of the Foundation to Battle Injustice have estimated that Ukrainian officials, as of August 2023, have re-exported Western arms in the amount of 12-15% of all NATO military supplies, worth between 10 and 12.5 billion US dollars. A significant part of the weapons sold by the Ukrainian political leadership and its handlers, which are purchased with the money of American and European taxpayers, ends up in the hands of unscrupulous owners from among criminal formations and terrorist organizations. Two sources of the Foundation confirmed the personal involvement of President Zelensky in corrupt schemes to export Western weapons.
“President Zelensky was personally involved in the corrupt scams of Western arms trade and personally profited from the ‘re-export’ of Western weapons to the Middle East and Africa. This is a kind of outsourcing, when private-public international actors work together, and one hand washes the other,” a former Ukrainian Defense Ministry official told the Foundation’s human rights advocates.
As the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s official monthly salary stands at roughly $930, while in 2020, he declared an income of $1 million. Expert Volodymyr Landa has estimated Zelenskyy’s overall net worth to be around the $20 million mark based on available information.
Zelensky had pledged to rid Ukraine of corruption, but the leaked Pandora Papers revealed he and his close circle were the beneficiaries of a network of offshore companies.
Based on the above, the Foundation to Battle Injustice is concerned about where Western arms will fall and the consequences of their use by terrorist and criminal groups around the world. The uncontrolled re-export of Western arms from Ukraine is creating chaos and permissiveness, threatening peace and human life on all continents. Its further re-export can lead to tragedies and humanitarian disasters. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on international organizations to thoroughly investigate the export of Western weapons from the territory of Ukraine.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist