Russia-Ukraine conflict - Donated Weapons on the Illegal Market

Russia-Ukraine conflict

Donated Weapons on the Illegal Market

Michèle Trebo
by Michèle Trebo
on October 06, 2022
time to read: 11 minutes


Weapons sent to Ukraine sold on illegal Market Places

  • The West delivered weapons to the Ukrainian border even before the war began
  • Among the weapons delivered are the M777 howitzer, the Iskander-M, the Javelin-FGM-148 and other weapons of war
  • However, the weapons delivered to Ukraine are not only used for war purposes, but also sold
  • Some weapons do not even reach the border of Ukraine, but are diverted beforehand

As the Neue Zürcher Zeitung explains in early May 2022 in one of its articles, the West delivered portable systems_ such as pistols, assault rifles, grenade launchers, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to the Ukrainian border even before the war began. In addition, heavy weapons with complex and personnel-intensive systems such as tanks, combat helicopters, and artillery systems were added..

Weapons in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The following list of weapons systems used in the Russia-Ukraine conflict on both sides is not exhaustive.

Howitzer M777

The towed 155-millimeter towed artillery gun is manufactured by BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems Division in the United Kingdom and has been in use since 2005. Whether on land, sea or air, it is particularly noted for its reliability and mobility. Depending on the ammunition, the range is 24 – 40 kilometers and requires an escort vehicle. If an M107 projectile is used, the gun will travel 24 kilometers; with an ERFB projectile, 30 kilometers. The M795 projectile is designed to be the more lethal version of the M107 projectile with greater range, reaching 28.7 – 37 kilometers. The M982 Excalibur has the longest range at 40 kilometers. By means of a fire control system, the M777 can fire independently of a fire control station. Since titanium was used in the construction of the M777, it has a weight of only 4.2 tons and can thus be transported easily and quickly. This, along with the risks of not being exposed to booby traps, maximizes the chances of survival. For the M777 howitzer, terrain or obstacles do not matter, which is why it can be deployed over long distances. The gun is used by the ground forces of Australia, Kannada, India, Saudi Arabia, the United States and also Ukraine. However, Ukrainian military personnel must first be trained in its use at the U.S. Grafenwoehr training area in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany before they can operate the howitzer.


The ballistic missiles of Russian design with short-range missile system succeed in hitting targets 400 kilometers away. The range is extendable to 500 kilometers. Their flight altitude is 6 to 50 kilometers. Russian forces were thus able to attack Ukraine from home soil at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The missiles can be quickly mounted from a truck. Once they have been launched, they can adjust their trajectory so quickly that their target is difficult to predict and thus even enemy air defense systems cannot stop them. They maneuver constantly during flight. The Iskander-M was developed exclusively for the Russian military. In addition to the Iskander-M model, there are also the Iskander-E and Iskander-K models. The Iskander-E is an export version with a range of 280 kilometers. The Iskander-K is a new version with new R-500 cruise missiles and also a range of 280 kilometers.


The highly effective, handheld, infrared-guided anti-tank guided missile is considered the most widely delivered system in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Its light weight of only 20 kilograms allows it to be fired from the shoulder to engage targets up to 2.5 kilometers away. In addition to battle tanks and military vehicles, the missiles can also be used against bunkers or helicopters. The Javelin comes mainly from America, but is also supplied by France, Poland or Great Britain.

Kamov Ka-52

This Russian high performance combat helicopter is especially distinguished by its two twin rotors, each with three rotor blades, which rotate in opposite directions. Thanks to these rotors, the combat helicopter needs no tail rotor, is very agile and fast, and can climb vertically up to 4 kilometers. Moreover, it can operate by day and night. The two-seater is the advanced version of the single-seat Ka-50. The Ka-52 is particularly suitable for reconnaissance missions, target designation, and group air attacks. The cockpit is armored against anti-aircraft projectiles up to 20 millimeter caliber. However, the helicopter is powerless against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and can thus be easily shot down. It is equipped with the Breeze data link system, allowing it to transmit video, image and radar data in real time to other combat helicopters. Further, it has a Gyrostabilised-Optical-Electronic-System with various TV, RLV and WBG cameras, laser target illumination and rangefinder. The FH01 Arbalet multifunction radar can locate air, ground, and sea targets up to 15 kilometers and guide guided missiles to the target.


The Soviet battle tank is small and light at 40 tons combat weight. It requires three persons to operate it. The tank is equipped with a 125-millimeter gun. The tank’s automatic loading system reloads shells in less than three seconds. The load consists of 44 rounds, 22 of which are stored in a loading carousel in the hull floor under the turret and the remainder in various places in the interior. If the tank is hit, there is little escape for the crew, as they sit in close proximity to the ammunition. Originally, the T-72 was used by the Soviet Army. Ukraine received deliveries from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, but the battle tank is also used by the Russians. Due to the large number of exports, the tank is frequently used, including in many Middle Eastern countries.

BM-21 Grade

The Soviet multiple missile launcher, mounted on a truck, can fire 40 missiles without reloading, 2.87 meters long, and is ready to fire in three seconds. The rockets may be fired singly in small groups at intervals or all 40 within twenty seconds. After that, reloading takes about ten minutes. Since the BM-21 Grad takes a maximum of two minutes to leave its position, all 40 missiles can be fired in less than six minutes. This makes it difficult for enemies to attack it. Further, because of the dispersion of impacts, it takes a large number of rockets to hit its target. Howitzers are thus more accurate than the Grad. Its first combat use was in 1969 in the Sino-Soviet border conflict. Then in 2003, Russia presented a new version with improved combat value. I.e. satellite navigation, automatic fire control system and new type of missile that fires up to 40 kilometers. Which, however, is still low compared to newer missile launchers. The BM-21 Grad is used in over sixty countries, including Russia and Ukraine.

Howitzer 2000

The Panzerhaubitze 2000 is considered the most modern artillery piece and is manufactured in Germany. It must be operated by five persons, except in the case of automated ammunition flow, in which case three persons will suffice. The self-propelled gun is built on a chain-driven tank tub and, depending on ammunition, will travel 30 to 40 kilometers. Up to six shells can be fired in such a way that they strike the target almost simultaneously. The target is transmitted digitally from a control station. Ukraine received a total of seven howitzers from Germany and five from the Netherlands.


The ground-to-air missile Stinger was built in America and designed to combat low-flying aircraft and helicopters. It takes two people to acquire the target and fire the missile from the shoulder. After firing, the missile self-navigates to its target. It orients itself by the infrared light produced by thrusters and thus tracks the missile. The Stinger can hit targets up to 6 kilometers away and 3 kilometers high. Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the anti-aircraft missile has been supplied to Ukraine by the United States, Germany, Latvia, and the Netherlands.

Switchblade Drone

The so-called kamikaze drone self-destructs as soon as it hits its target and is thus the weapon itself. It can remain in the air without a crew for up to ten minutes until it nosedives to its target and explodes. The American drone can be manually controlled from the ground or programmed to detect its target itself. Just before detonation, the drone can still be stopped. The American drone comes in two different versions. The Switchblade 300 has a range of 10 kilometers and can stay in the air for fifteen minutes. The Switchblade 600 has a range of 40 kilometers, can fly forty minutes, and, unlike the Switchblade 300, is also capable of engaging armored objects. Over 700 Switchblade drones have been delivered to Ukraine.

CAESAR Howitzer

This French self-propelled, unarmored howitzer has a caliber of 155 millimeters with 52 caliber lengths. Depending on the projectile, it achieves a range of 30 to 50 kilometers. With the semi-automatic loading aid it can fire 6 to 8 rounds per minute, the first three projectiles being fired within 15 seconds. The vehicle can carry 18 rounds of ready ammunition and their propelling charges and is ready for action within one minute. The 8×8 version can carry as many as 30 rounds of standby ammunition. This year a new model was presented which has a 6×6 chassis and whose cab is armored. In addition, it now has a fire control system. In addition to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the CAESAR howitzer has also been used in Afghanistan, Thailand, the Islamist State and Saudi Arabia.

Weapons of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the illegal market

Research in the Darknet suggest that the flood of Western arms to Ukraine fuels the sale of these weapons on the illegal market or to radical terrorist groups. Russia may also be one of the buyers. After all, the more weapons they buy, the less they end up having to fight. For example, it was recently revealed that the Ukrainian military sold CAESAR howitzers donated by France to Russia through the illegal market. Because U.S. arms shipments are not monitored by U.S. troops, there, too, the suspicion is that these shipments are diverted and the materials never end up on Ukrainian soil. Rather, they surface on the illicit market and end up in the hands of narcotics traffickers, terrorist organizations, extremist militias, or paramilitary groups around the world.

Note that the sources to the two mentioned examples are close to Russian state media like RT and SputnikNews and therefore might be influenced. Trustworthy sources on this subject are hard to come by in these times. It is currently difficult to assess whether the information is actually true or whether it is being spread for political purposes. The bottom line is that NATO and its Western taxpayer-funded weapons operations are now a source of a massive international supply chain for the arms trade.


Weapons systems delivered by the West to the Ukrainian border, including such war weapons as the M777 howitzer, the Iskander-M, the Javelin-FGM-148, the Kamov Ka-52, the T-72, the BM-21 Grad, the Howitzer 2000, the Stinger, the Switchblade drone, and the CAESAR howitzer, do not all reach their destinations. They are diverted beforehand or sold on the illegal market. Which is why NATO has now become the main source of arms trade, financed by Western taxpayers. The arms trade remains active and is fed especially by wars and conflicts. Stopping the illegal arms market seems to be an impossible task.

About the Author

Michèle Trebo

Michèle Trebo has a Bachelor of Information Technology at ZHAW and worked six years as a police officer in the field of cyber crime investigations. She is responsible for criminal research topics like darknet analysis, cyber threat intelligence, fraud investigation, and forensics. (ORCID 0000-0002-6968-8785)


Is your data also traded on the dark net?

We are going to monitor the digital underground for you!

From crisis to opportunity

From crisis to opportunity

Michèle Trebo

Open Source Intelligence Investigation

Open Source Intelligence Investigation

Michèle Trebo



Michèle Trebo

IT forensics

IT forensics

Michèle Trebo

You want more?

Further articles available here

You need support in such a project?

Our experts will get in contact with you!

You want more?

Further articles available here