Europol alarmed over fate of western arms in Ukraine
Europol head, Catherine De Bolle, has warned that weapons currently being delivered to Ukraine could eventually end up in the hands of criminals operating on the continent.
In her interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday, De Bolle said that one of the things which were of concern to her organization was the “whereabouts of the weapons that are currently being delivered to Ukraine.” She explained that when the conflict ends, Europol wants to “prevent a situation akin to that of 30 years ago in the Balkan war.”
“The weapons from that war are still being used by criminal groups today,” she said.
De Bolle noted that one of Europol’s key priorities now was to “find a way in which we will deal with the situation after a possible end to the war.” According to her, Europol “will be assembling an international task force that will address this issue.”
The official acknowledged that Europe is currently seeing an unprecedented level of violence on the streets, akin to the situation seen so far only in Latin American countries. De Bolle also said that corruption in the EU is on a “scale larger than we had assumed.” More than half of the criminal organizations Europol is observing use the services of corrupt officials in one way or another to facilitate their illegal business, the agency’s chief revealed.
As for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, another major area of concern to Europol, besides the weapons, is the travel of “known terrorists and extremist individuals prepared to use violence” in the war zone, according to De Bolle.
She said that while “Europol’s Counterterrorism Center is monitoring the phenomenon very closely,” the situation is “highly dynamic and fragmented.” The EU’s law enforcement agency has so far been unable to pinpoint the total number of such people as individual European countries are providing Europol with diverging data, De Bolle acknowledged.
According to the official’s assessment, the people who are going to fight in Ukraine “do not represent a homogeneous group,” but rather adhere to different ideologies. She also noted that Europol is seeing some of these fighters return to their home countries “disillusioned,” having seen firsthand the “brutality of the war.”
While Europol has seen a rise in cyberattacks in various EU member states since Russia started its offensive in Ukraine in late February, a large-scale attack affecting all 27 nations, that the agency had expected, has not materialized, De Bolle told journalists.
Since Moscow launched its military operation against its neighbor, a number of EU member states, as well as the UK and the US have been actively supplying weapons to Kiev.
During the first month of the conflict, Ukraine’s Western backers mostly provided the country with portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, more recently, the focus has shifted toward heavy weapons.
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, with the aim of speeding up sending military equipment to Ukraine.
On May 21, Biden also approved legislation that earmarked an additional $40 billion in assistance to Kiev.
Russia insists that the shipment of Western weapons only serves to prolong the conflict. Moreover, the Kremlin has also repeatedly warned that the weapons supplied to Ukrainian forces could eventually fall into the hands of terrorists and criminals elsewhere. Of particular concern, according to Russian official, are the supplies of man-portable anti-aircraft missiles to Kiev, which could potentially be used by terrorists to target civil aircraft.