Some 300 pieces small arms, almost 1,500 pieces of light weapons, more than 140,000 pieces ammunition and over 200 kg explosives were seized by the Moldovan and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies during a Joint Operation (JO) codenamed “ORION”, coordinated by the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) in cooperation with the European Union law enforcement agency (Europol).
Moreover, public awareness campaigns on voluntarily handing over the illegally possessed firearms, without facing any criminal liability, were organized during the JO “ORION” and proved to be also successful as 2,027 light weapons, 54 small arms and 2,025 ammunitions with different calibres, as well as 67 pneumatic and gas pistols were voluntary handed over by Moldovan and Ukrainian citizens.
The JO “ORION” was carried in three operational phases, from September 2018 till January 2019 and covered the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Aiming at supporting the Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcement agencies in counteracting the illicit trafficking of small arms, light weapons, ammunition, explosives and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials, the Operation was supported also by the border agencies from Slovakia, Romania and Poland as well as by Frontex and SELEC.
This Operation provided a great opportunity for information exchange on people, modi operandi and smuggling channels and it was part of EUBAM, Europol, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Member States’ common efforts undertaken to tackle the threats related to cross-border crime in the region and it contributed to improving the situational picture in illegal weapons trafficking.
In this context, Roberto Codesal, Head of Anaysis Project Weapons and Explosives at Europol, stated: “Joint Operation ORION is yet another example of how international cooperation is key to fighting the cross-border trafficking in firearms and explosives. The availability of such weapons poses a clear threat to global security, while also providing a lucrative profit stream for criminals. Europol’s role, together with its partners, is to help countries remove illicit weapons from circulation, but most importantly, to dismantle the networks which facilitate their trade.”
The final results of Joint Operation “ORION” were shared during a debriefing meeting held in Odessa, Ukraine, on 17 July 2019, offering the participants the opportunity to discuss in-depth the results of the Operation and coordinate their efforts in further counteracting illicit fire arms trafficking.
“Joint Operation “ORION” proved to be a valuable tool for counteracting, testing risks and assessing the existing threats in the field of illicit weapons trafficking as well as strengthening the international cooperation”, said Slawomir Pichor, the Head of EUBAM Mission. “Due to these numerous seizures also the citizens’ security has been improved and we are very happy that the Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities make efforts in addressing this threat. I want to thank Europol for partnering us in coordinating this operation”, he added.