Saturday, January 06, 2018

Armed and Angry in Ukraine

"This is the consequence of the enormous and uncontrolled circulation of military weapons on the territory of Ukraine after the beginning of hostilities."
"In the past, people also had aggressive quarrels, but there was no access to grenades or other weapons. Now, it is very easy to purchase weapons from people who visit the war zone." 
"Social tension increases in the society. Law enforcement is not efficient, and people don't trust the police."
Anna Maliar, criminologist

"A grenade is consumable: it means that a soldier can claim that it exploded, but easily hide it instead."
"Civilians, especially women, are usually checked less."
Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director, Ukrainian Institute of Research of Extremism, Kiev
Gregoire Moutaux, was stopped on the Polish-Ukrainian border on May 21 with 125 kilograms of explosives, five AK-series assault rifles, two antitank grenade launchers, some 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and 100 detonators. Ukrainian officials claim he planned more than a dozen attacks.  Radio Free Europe

Four years of war against ethnic Russian separatists, trained, armed and supported by Russia in eastern Ukraine has led to the spread of weapons. The proliferation of those weapons has led in turn to gun violence increasingly making the areas of eastern Ukraine more unlawful and dangerous. A soldier can sell a gun or a grenade on the black market. In a country with a per capita household income of $1,135 (in 2015), $15 can seem like a considerable sum.

Grenades in particular appear to be filtering out of the war zone into the hands of civilians. In Kiev in 2015 a hand grenade thrown into a crowd of protesters left four police officers dead, injuring 141 people. A Ukrainian serviceman recently detonated a grenade to commit suicide following an argument with his girlfriend. At a gas station an unemployed civilian threatened an attendant with a hand grenade, driving away without paying the bill for the gas he took.

Mostly it is the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, held by the secessionists and where the Ukrainian Army is in conflict with the separatists that is affected. The sheer number of people with permits enabling them to enter the zone of military action is a complicating factor in the illegal and dangerous dissemination of grenades for personal profit. Since 2014, over ten thousand people, many civilians among them, have died there.

In an effort to eliminate black-market trading in arms several Parliamentary members proposed the legalization of firearms. Regulations allowing civilians to legally possess firearms for self-defence, not only for hunting as is the current case, has been recommended. The possession of hand grenades is another matter altogether.

In Nikopol, eastern Ukraine, Ruslan Tapayev mourned the death of his daughter, with three men standing trial for her murder. Continual bureaucratic delays in the trial of the three men charged with his daughter's murder led the distraught father to pull the pins from two hand grenades, throw one at the three defendants in the courtroom, holding the second to commit suicide.

"It blew the windows out, and there was a fire, screaming and panic", justice Bahrova said of the event that killed one of the defendants, wounding a dozen other people.
 Emergency workers wheel one of the injured on a stretcher following the grenade attack in eastern Ukraine
Emergency workers wheel one of the injured on a stretcher following the grenade attack in eastern Ukraine 
Image: DP.NPU.GOV.UA

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