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Ukraine: Information on organized crime's infiltration of, and links with, government authorities; government initiatives taken against organized crime (2005-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 14 March 2006
Citation / Document Symbol UKR101124.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ukraine: Information on organized crime's infiltration of, and links with, government authorities; government initiatives taken against organized crime (2005-2006), 14 March 2006, UKR101124.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Organized Crime in Ukraine

According to the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006 (INCSR 2006), "[d]espite a government crackdown on corruption, organized crime, smuggling, and tax evasion, these problems continue to plague Ukraine's economy and to provide an impetus to money laundering" (Mar. 2006, Vol. 2). Ukraine has been identified as one of the main countries of origin where "organized crime networks" are engaged in human trafficking and immigrant smuggling (RFE/RL 26 Jan. 2005). These two criminal activities continue to be associated with money laundering (INCSR 2006 Mar. 2006, Vol. 2) and sexual exploitation (AI 2005). INCSR 2006 reported that although Ukraine has satisfactory counternarcotics legislation, "[t]rafficking and use of narcotics [have] continued to increase in 2005" (Mar. 2006, Vol. 1). Illegal arms trafficking is another problem that Ukraine is trying to address, in close cooperation with the European Union (EU) (Council of the European Union 3 Oct. 2005, 14).

Initiatives to combat Organized Crime

On 24 January 2006, in his speech at the conference "Reinforcing the Area of Freedom, Security, Prosperity and Justice of the EU and its Neighbouring Countries," Ukraine's Ambassador to the EU Roman Shpek claimed that over the last few years Ukraine had been making progress in the fight to end organized crime (Ukraine 24 Jan. 2006).

Trafficking in persons

As part of its commitment to reducing trafficking in persons, Ambassador Shpek indicated that Ukraine had acceded to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) in November 2005 (ibid.). A comprehensive program to combat trafficking in human beings from 2006 to 2010 has also been established by the Interagency Coordinating Committee of Ukraine (ibid.). Shpek also stated that, in 2005, a specialized Department to counteract human trafficking was created within the Ministry of Interior, and Ukrainian authorities had since initiated more than 260 criminal cases on human trafficking, ... tracked down and liquidated 28 criminal groups, prevented illegal transportation of over 2,000 children from Ukraine without their parents' consent, [and] brought back to Ukraine over 300 persons, illegally kept abroad" (ibid.). The Ambassador also indicated that an immigration card had been introduced for "entry and exit at all international border crossing points of Ukraine, simultaneous (integrated) border and customs control of persons, goods and vehicles, [and] establishment of the system of 'green' and red' corridors" (ibid.).

In contrast, the last annual report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that " [a]nti-trafficking legislation, prosecutions of those complicit in trafficking, and implementation of rehabilitation programs for victims remain inadequate [in Ukraine]" (18 Jan. 2006). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, also noted that

[c]orruption in the judiciary and police continued to impede the government's ability to combat trafficking. Local officials reportedly aided organized crime groups involved in trafficking; a police officer, for example, allegedly assisted an organized crime gang that trafficked minors to Russian pedophiles. NGOs asserted that local police and border guards received bribes in return for ignoring trafficking. The authorities did not disclose official statistics on corruption related to trafficking, but some law enforcement investigations of human trafficking revealed abuses of power by governmental officials responsible for issuing passports. Officials issued passports to minors, for example, with false age or other information. The low number of prosecutions of government officials for such activities raised questions about whether the government was willing to take serious disciplinary action, especially against high-level officials (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

According to Amnesty International (AI), officers working in the Ministry of the Interior's special department on human trafficking "often lacked resources and training" (AI 2005). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 indicated that some experts have urged the Ukrainian authorities

to improve their antitrafficking prosecutions by establishing a special witness protection program for trafficking victims and broadening the existing law to correspond to international norms. However, the [Ministry of Internal Affairs] MOI continued to cite insufficient financial resources as the reason for not implementing a witness protection program in any sphere, beyond a limited protection detail for the duration of a trial (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

In 2005, five Centres for Migrant Advice (CMAs) were opened in Kiev with funding from the European Union channelled through an International Organization for Migration (IOM) management program (IOM 18 Oct. 2005). The Centres served to provide "information on workers' rights overseas, legal methods of migration and the risks of irregular migration and human trafficking" (ibid.).

Drug Trafficking

According to the INCSR 2006, Ukrainian authorities continued to implement the "Program of the State Policy in Combating Illegal Circulation of Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors for 2003-2010 in 2005" (Mar. 2006, Vol. 1). However, the INCSR 2006 indicated that the program acknowledged "the growing scale of drug abuse, and that the [Ukrainian] Government's current education and public awareness efforts, community prevention efforts, and treatment and rehabilitation centers [were] not adequate in scope and number to address the problem" (ibid.). INCSR 2006 further indicated that

[b]etween 2001 and 2005, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies eliminated 309 drug trafficking organizations in Ukraine and 57 foreign-led drug trafficking organizations operating from Ukraine territory. According to government statistics, drug "imports" for consumption remain[ed] comparatively low while drug "exports" [were] increasing. The Ministry of Interior continued to strengthen its Drug Enforcement Department (DED) (ibid.).

The Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (UNIAN) reported that "Ukrainian law enforcers uncovered 166 international channels for drug trafficking to and through the territory of Ukraine in 2005" (UNIAN 24 Jan. 2006). According to INCSR 2006, in 2005, "there were no charges of corruption of public officials relating to drugs" (Mar. 2006, Vol.1). Human Rights Watch (HRW), however, stated that "[n]umerous drug users, advocates, and service providers ... said that police planted drugs in people's homes or on their person as a basis to arrest and to extort money and information from them" (Mar. 2006). The INCSR 2006 noted that several media reports claimed that public officials or law enforcement officers were "engaged in drug trafficking or covering up such activities (Mar. 2006, Vol. 1).

Illegal Weapons Trade

In a 24 January 2006 article, UNIAN wrote that Ukrainian police registered 11,000 crimes involving illegal weapons in 2005 (24 Jan. 2006). The same article stated that police confiscated "3,100 pieces of firearms, including 1,200 pieces of rifle-bore weapons, 410 pieces of smoothbore firearms, 225 improvised explosive devices, 1.2 tonnes of explosives, 428 grenades and 147,000 rounds of ammunition" over the course of the year (UNIAN 24 Jan. 2006). In November 2005, the European Union launched an operation to monitor the Moldovan-Ukrainian border in an effort to limit the smuggling of illegal weapons and drugs (RFE/RL 30 Nov. 2005) The operation reportedly involved "some 70 border policemen and customs officers from 16 [European Union] EU countries and 50 local staffers" (ibid.).

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, in February, April, and May 2005,

major newspapers reiterated allegations that gangs of rogue officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOI), colloquially known as "werewolves," had been involved in previous years in killings and kidnappings connected to organized crime, but there were no indications that these allegations were being actively investigated (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 1a).

In a 1 March 2006 article, Ukrainian Minister of the Interior estimated that "clans linked to the previous administration caused 22bn hryvnyas [over 4.3bn dollars] in losses to the state" (Ukrayinska Pravda 1 Mar. 2006). He said that the clans "often involved organized crime groups with epaulettes to solve their tasks, ... [and t]he aim of removing clans from government has not been reached" (ibid.). The Minister also criticized the decision "to grant immunity to members of local council" (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2005. "Ukraine." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 8 March 2006]

Council of the European Union. 3 October 2005. "Affaires générales et relations extérieures – Affaires générales." Communiqué de presse. (1251/05) (Presse 241) [Accessed 8 March 2006]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. 8 March 2006. "Ukraine." United States Department of State. [Accessed 13 March 2006]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). March 2006. Rhetoric and Risk Human Rights Abuses Impeding Ukraine's Fight Against HIV/AIDS. Volume 18, No. 2 (D). [Accessed 8 March 2006]
_____. 18 January 2006. "Ukraine." World Report 2006. [Accessed 6 March 2006]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). 18 October 2005. Jemini Pandya. "Press Briefing Notes: Ukraine – Centres Provide Advice on Safe and Legal Migration" [Accessed 8 March 2006]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006 (INCSR 2006). March 2006. "Ukraine." Volumes 1 and 2. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2006]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 30 November 2005. Jan Maksymiuk. "East: EU Operation Begins Monitoring Ukranian-Moldovan Border." [Accessed 8 Mar. 2006]
_____. 26 January 2005. Breffni O'Rourke. "Europe: Council Of Europe Report Says Organized Crime Poses Threat To Democracy." [Accessed: 6 Mar. 2006]

Ukraine. 24 January 2006. Mission of Ukraine to European Communities. "Speech of Ambassador Mr. R. Shpek at the Conference 'Reinforcing the Area of Freedom, Security, Prosperity and Justice of the EU and its Neighbouring Countries.' Session 2: Security and Migration Policies, Border Management, Fight Against Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Illegal Migration and Other Forms of Organized Crime." [Accessed 6 Mar. 2006]

Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (UNIAN) [Kiev, in Ukrainian]. 24 January 2006. "Ukraine posts statistics on arms, drug trafficking in 2005." (BBC Monitoring Ukraine and Baltics/Factiva).

Ukrayinska Pravda [Kiev]. 1 March 2006. "Ukrainian Interior Minister Tells Tycoons out of Crime, Politics." (BBC Monitoring Ukraine and Baltics/Factiva).

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Central Intelligency Agency (CIA), George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, The Heritage Foundation, International Association for the Study of Organized Crime (IASOC), Interpol, Jane's Intelligence Review, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), National Institute of Justice (NIJ) [United States], North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Novosti, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), The Ukrainian Observer, University of Rhode Island, United States Office of Justice Programs.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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