Robbers ‘Loot’ Russian Missiles Left Behind In Chernihiv; Ukrainian Police Bust Bizarre Theft, Arrest Culprits

As NATO allies scramble to provide additional air defense support to Ukraine, the Ukrainian Police have unearthed a bizarre theft of air defense missiles by two people who hatched a plan to hide a Russian Tor air defense system near the capital city of Kyiv.

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Ukrainian police recently claimed that they have handed over an unspecified number of air defense missiles to the Ukrainian military, following the uncovering of a plan made by two individuals to hide a Tor air defense system that the Russians left behind in the Chernihiv region as they retreated in the spring of 2022.

Tor is a short-range, all-weather, low to medium-range surface-to-air missile system deployed in Ukraine. Both combatants have used the weapon system and its various upgraded and modernized variants in the ongoing war. Ukrainian forces destroyed several Russian Tor air defense systems throughout the war.

According to the National Police Kyiv headquarters, an inquiry occurred after the Tor launching system was discovered in the Brorvar district. They gave little details but said that the initial discovery led to an investigation to determine who placed it there and what they did with the missiles that went along with it.

In a statement published on its Telegram, the National Police said, “After several operational and search measures, the law enforcement officers managed to establish the location. They were stored by the second offender in another part of the Kyiv region in a rented garage box.”

As per preliminary claims reported by local Ukrainian media, there were some eight missiles hidden in the rented garage box, and the cost of the missiles is estimated at 30 million hryvnias. The court ruled to transfer them to serve the Ukrainian armed forces. The reports stated that the men may face up to 7 years in prison.

On its part, the Ukrainian National Police did not specify the number of missiles or the variant of the Tor air defense that they have recovered. In the photographs of the seizure published by the Police, some investigators could be seen searching an interceptor storage container containing four missiles concealed by a black tarp.

The authorities stopped short of revealing the intended use of the system by the 38-year-old and the 45-year-old suspects and whether they intended to sell them. However, they stated that the missiles had been sent to Ukraine, which could use any air defense interceptors they could lay their hands on, particularly those made by the elusive Soviet Union.

Officers investigating the recovered interceptors (via Platform X)

This is the second time in a week that such bizarre theft has come to light. Earlier this week, the National Police in Kyiv had disclosed the seizure of weapons and detained a man who they claim had “a significant amount” of arms hidden in an apartment and a garage.

After obtaining a search order, the police discovered “ammunition and explosives: rockets, a portable anti-tank complex, anti-tank grenades, a machine gun, and almost 1,700 cartridges of various” small arms ammunition. They did not, however, elaborate on his motivation for possessing the weapons or his intended use of them, as seen in the latest incident.

Interesting theft cases have come to light in Ukraine since the invasion was launched in late February last year. For instance, a pair of Ukrainian farmers went viral on social media in March 2022 when it was reported that they stole a Russian surface-to-air missile using their large, green tractors.

Controversy has unfolded in Ukraine regarding criminals and arms traffickers stealing weaponry sent from Western equipment stock meant for the Ukrainian troops that are perpetually in need of armed support, whether Western or Soviet-origin arms, to fight against the Russians.

When Pentagon Made Explosive Disclosures

According to a Defense Department inspector general report that came to light in July this year, criminals, volunteer fighters, and arms traffickers took some Western-provided weaponry and equipment meant for Ukrainian troops last year before it was found.

The report titled “DoD’s Accountability of Equipment Provided to Ukraine” noted that Ukraine’s intelligence agencies eventually thwarted the attempts to steal the weapons and equipment, and they were recovered, as CNN reported at the time, citing Freedom of Information disclosures.

However, the inspector general’s report noted that the Defense Department encountered “challenges” in tracking and supervising the massive influx of US equipment into Ukraine after Russia invaded that country last year as required by the Arms Export Control Act. It was mainly because the US had a limited presence in the war-torn country.

The report dated October 6, 2022, which covered the months of February and September 2022, stated that the Office of Defense Cooperation-Kyiv “was unable to conduct required [end-use monitoring] of military equipment that the United States provided to Ukraine in FY 2022.”

To better monitor the movement of the equipment, the US recommenced on-site inspections of Ukrainian armament storage facilities in late October. According to Colin Kahl, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, the department has also given the Ukrainians tracking technology, including scanners and software.

US military aid consignment in Ukraine (via Platform X)

A US investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, claimed earlier this year that the West is aware that the weapons it gave to Ukraine are being traded on the underground market. When seen alongside the Pentagon report, these claims made the matter snowball into a controversy.

On its part, the US continues to assert that there was no diversion of weapons supplied to Ukraine. In a press briefing recently, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the weapons Ukraine receives to fend off Russian aggression are used appropriately and that there have been no instances of them ending up in the wrong hands.

“And we’ve seen no diversion of those arms [sent to Ukraine] at this point.” “But I will say that we have important accountability mechanisms in place for US arms and US military assistance that we supply to Ukraine,” the US State Department spokesperson emphasized.