Ukrainian police say they have turned over an undisclosed number of air defense missiles to the military after uncovering a plot by two people to hide a Tor air defense system they found after the Russians left it behind in the Chernihiv region as they evacuated in the spring of 2022.
The headquarters of the National Police in Kyiv said the investigation began when they found the Tor launcher system somewhere in Brorvar district. They provided scant details, but said the discovery kicked off an effort to find who put it there and what they did with the missiles that went with it.
“After carrying out a number of operational and search measures, the law enforcement officers managed to establish the location" of those missiles, the National Police said Friday on their Telegram channel. “They were stored by the second offender in another part of the Kyiv region in a rented garage box.”
It is unclear from the information released by the National Police when all this took place or which of the several variants of the Tor, for which they provided no imagery, the men hid. Nor did they say how many of the 9M331 air defense missiles were recovered. The police said only that “the cost of the missiles is about 30 million hryvnias (about $811,000).”
Images released by the police show investigators inspecting an interceptor storage container with four missiles that was under a black tarp in what looks like an overgrown field behind a building. They also released pictures of individual missiles, as well as a storage container with four missiles on a wooden pallet in the street. It is unknown if that is the same container that appeared in the previous picture.
The police didn’t say what the suspects, aged 38 and 45, were doing with the Tor system and missiles or whether they planned to sell them. They did, however, say the missiles were turned over to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which can use all the air defense interceptors it can get, especially hard to come by Soviet-designed ones.
This was the second time in three days that the National Police in Kyiv announced the seizure of weapons.
On Wednesday, police arrested a man they say stashed “a significant amount” of weapons in an apartment and garage. After obtaining a search warrant, police say they found “ammunition and explosives: rockets, a portable anti-tank complex, anti-tank grenades, a machine gun, and almost 1,700 cartridges of various” rounds of small arms ammunition.”
The images police released on their website also appear to show a disposable launch tube for a U.S.made Javelin anti-tank missile. It appears to have been spent, but we cannot confirm that a missile was not inside.
The unnamed suspect faces up to seven years in prison, the police said. They did not provide details about why he had the weapons or what he was planning to do with them. Nor did they mention the Javelin launch tube. Thousands have been provided to Ukraine and there is no way of knowing how the suspect obtained it, but without the command launch unit it is essentially junk.
These arrests come as the U.S. State Department says there has been no diversion of U.S. weapons donated to Ukraine.
“We have important accountability mechanisms in place for U.S. arms and U.S. military assistance that we supply to Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Thursday. “We have strict oversight mechanisms that we’ve put in place. That also applies to humanitarian and economic aid that we’ve provided. And we’ve seen no diversion of those arms at this point.”
In a nation awash in weapons, it is not surprising that some will find their way into the wrong hands. The vast majority of these appear to be Soviet-era weapons found in a nation that has been fighting off its neighbor for nearly a decade. Still, there remain major concerns that with so much weaponry pouring into the country so fast that some of it could fall into the wrong hands, with the more advanced systems, like anti-tank guided missiles and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, being of significant worry.
In this case, the story ended positively, with Ukraine gaining some much needed anti-aircraft missiles and the perpetrators being caught by authorities without harm done to anyone.
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