People in the country have a large number of firearms and grenades, Igor Klimenko has said FILE PHOTO. © AFP / Philippe Desmazes

People in Ukraine are currently in possession of up to 5 million weapons, Interior Minister Igor Klimenko said on Friday. The authorities could not keep track of all the arms they handed out to citizens amid the conflict between Kiev and Moscow, the minister explained, adding that a number of the firearms are possessed by Ukrainians illegally.

The list of weapons possessed by people in Ukraine is not limited to firearms, but also includes grenades, the official told a congress of local and regional authorities, according to Ukrinform news agency. Klimenko admitted that Kiev would tolerate the illegal possession of weapons as long as the conflict with Moscow continues.

“How many weapons do our citizens have in their hands? Between 1 and 5 million… How many grenades? Quite enough as well,” the minister said at the meeting. “We… understand that they should have it because there is a war going on.”

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According to Klimenko, “almost all” weapons handed out by the authorities are “accounted for,” but there is also a “a certain number” of “trophy” weapons obtained by Ukrainians outside of state control.

Lawmakers are currently working on a bill that would establish a procedure for citizens to either register or surrender their arms, Klimenko said. Under the proposed rules, those in possession of weapons would have to turn them over to the police 90 days after the end of martial law, according to the minister. Alternatively, people could modify their weapons to make them comply with government regulations, he added.

Ukraine is yet to develop a civilian arms possession culture, the minister said, adding that many who return from the battlefield might have mental issues.

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Russian officials previously warned that arms sent to Kiev could find their way onto the black market and into the hands of terrorists or organized crime groups. In October 2022, the Finnish authorities reported that weapons sent to Ukraine by its Western backers found their way into the Nordic nation and ended up in the hands of local criminal groups. Arms supplied to Kiev were also reportedly found in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands at the time.

In summer 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Western anti-tank weapons” sent to Ukraine were found around Israel’s borders. A Newsweek report published around the same time suggested that not all of the Western arms intended for Ukraine had arrived at their destination. Citing an Israeli defense official, the magazine claimed that West Jerusalem had seen signs of these weapons being smuggled from Ukraine to Iran. (RT)