Western nations provided Kiev billions of dollars in aid at the commencement of the Russian special forces operation in Ukraine, but the majority of it has come in the form of weapons to engage Russian forces. It appears that some Ukrainians, nevertheless, put the weapons to good use. This is how Ukrainians sell the NATO-supplied weapons abroad.
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Investigations has revealed that certain US-supplied weapons have already been seen on dark net marketplaces and in international smuggling networks, proving that Moscow’s warnings to western nations about the risks of unrestrainedly flooding Ukraine with weapons are beginning to come true.
After a scan across marketplaces on the dark net – a different portion of the internet accessible, for instance, through the Tor browser – an online shop named “Weapons Ukraine” was discovered on the THIEF marketplace. Faithful to its name, it readily sells firearms.
Express Delivery of 200 Rifles
“Weapons Ukraine” claims to be situated in Kiev, has a Russian name, and boasts of 32 successful deals validated by a guarantor – an intermediary given by the hidden website to ensure that a client receives their goods and the seller receives their money. The shop’s proprietor sells M4S assault rifles from US arms suppliers for $2,400, which is far more than the Pentagon’s pricing range of $600 to $1,200.
But unlike Pentagon, “Weapons Ukraine” is prepared to sell several hundred of these guns to anyone around without any bureaucratic difficulties, such as export licenses. In this example, the online store accepted to sell to Houthi fighters from Yemen who went by the alias “3ladin houthi” – a fictitious identity assumed by the Sputnik Arabic journalist. When the journalist contacted the trader, who was addressed in Arabic and converted into English via an internet translator, the guns dealer asked to switch to Wickr messenger for future interactions.
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The trader acknowledged there that they were prepared to transfer the weapons to Yemen by concealing them in oil barrels. Furthermore, the vendor was willing to toss in some extra rifle ammunition and frag grenades. The seller promised that the transportation would take only ten days.
The barrels are transported on vessels delivering humanitarian aid that are rarely checked. However, in order to avoid further suspicion, the seller declined to sell up to 100 barrels of weaponry. “Weapons Ukraine” and “3ladin houthi” agreed to ship 20 barrels holding 200 guns and 400 grenades worth $400,000 in total.
Crypto – the Dark Web’s King
Since cryptocurrencies are hard to trace or completely untraceable, they are commonly used in dark web marketplaces that trade illegal commodities. THIEF is no different. The transaction involves multiple phases, as “Weapons Ukraine” stated to “3ladin houthi.”
First, in the presence of a middleman made available by the market, the deal’s final terms are discussed and agreed upon. Then, while the vendor ships the items, the buyer transfers cryptocurrency, in this case Monero, to its account on the marketplace.
The buyer verifies the integrity and quantity of the shipment upon delivery before transferring the deposit to the intermediary. After deducting 2% for their services, the latter pays the money to the seller. The middleman would have received $8,000 from “3ladin_houthi”’s deal in exchange for ensuring that both the seller and the buyer receive their due compensation.
‘Allies’ in Poland and Portugal
Only after a deal has been reached and the middleman has received the deposit are all of the shipment’s specifics made known. The purchaser receives a tracking number that enables them to watch the shipment’s progress so they can see what ship their firearms are placed onto, when and from which port it departs, and when it reaches its destination.
The seller was only willing to offer rudimentary information on the shipping prior to signing the contract.
However, “Weapons Ukraine” accidentally revealed that their “allies in Poland” will put the firearms onto a ship. A Russian-written map with a hand-drawn estimation of the ship’s course was also provided by the arms dealer. The transit will leave from a port in Portugal, circumnavigate Africa, and end in Yemen, according to the map. The owner of the store declined to go into further detail about how the weapons would travel from Ukraine through Poland and then on to Portugal.
The remainder of the shipment’s specifics are unknown since the next step in the transaction—the marketplace’s authentication of the buyer’s account—would expose the con.
Nevertheless, it is plausible to presume that “Weapons Ukraine” had established a reliable delivery method given their 32 successful sales of undetermined quantities of weapons. According to the 20-barrel restriction, the internet store may have sold up to 6,400 rifles and 12,800 grenades globally. Now all they require is more weapons to sell, specifically further deliveries of weaponry from NATO nations.