Ukraine’s sale of weapons to Syria’s rebels backfires
A meeting in Morocco on December 12 by The Friends of Syria representing 100 countries recognized the opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Force as the sole representative of the Syrian people. The step opens the way for increased humanitarian and military assistance for opposition forces seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.
Ukraine will likely be one of the countries seeking to capitalize on this new development and export weapons to Syrian opposition forces through Arab proxies. The former Soviet Union and Ukraine have long-term experience in supplying weapons to the Middle East and Africa.
President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration has been pragmatic about exporting arms to warring parties and states—including to those opposed by Russia (see EDM, April 17, May 15). In particular, Ukrainian-made weapons have been delivered to insurgents in Syria through Saudi Arabian proxies. However, the Ukrainian foreign ministry denies supplying arms to the Syrian rebels (mfa.gov.ua).
Ukrainian arms shipments are likely to be part of a covert operation funded by Gulf Sunni supporters of the Syrian rebels. Weapons crates found in the Syrian city of Aleppo showed the arms were delivered from the Ukrainian port of Gostomel and exported by Dastan Engineering from LCW (Luhansk Cartridge Works), a major ammunition manufacturing plant in Luhansk. One of LCW’s main exports is the 7.62-mm cartridge used in AK-47 semi-automatic rifles, employed by both sides of the Syrian conflict (Ukrayinska Pravda, October 9).