The ongoing invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops is accompanied by a number of supplies of military equipment from Western allies to Ukraine. This aid goes to Ukraine largely through official channels, where the content of the supplies is known to the general public and these are clear and public agreements. On the other hand, a greater number of weapons and ammunition have already appeared in Ukraine which does not come from these official flows. Weapons from the Western Balkans are a very good example that the global arms market, and probably the black market as well, is also a battleground and an object of interest for Ukraine’s allies and partners in order to obtain critically important resources for Ukraine.
Of course, not all weapons from the Western Balkan region found their way to Ukraine through unofficial or even illegal channels. A shining example is Northern Macedonia, which makes no secret of its arms supplies to Ukraine. Based on information available through OSINT and public statements by North Macedonian officials, the country has likely delivered to Ukraine most or all of its T-72As tanks, four Su-25 subsonic combat aircraft (three single-seat Su-25s and one twin-seat Su-25UB), unspecified amount and types of infantry weapons and ammunition, artillery equipment, anti-armour and anti-aircraft weapon systems, and equipment and ammunition for use by the military aviation. The possibility of delivering Mi-24 attack helicopters, which North Macedonia has at its disposal and which Ukraine has requested, is also being currently analysed (1) (2) (3) (4) (5).
Montenegro, another NATO member from the Balkan region, has also partially revealed its supplies to Ukraine. The country’s military assistance has so far been considerably less than in the case of Northern Macedonia. Official documents claim deliveries of 7,000 food rations, 500 helmets, 300 bulletproof vests, 600 armoured plates, 600 60mm and 82mm mortar bombs, 226 Strela-2M MANPADS, 759 anti-aircraft shells of 57×438 mm calibre, 7,277 57mm grenades, 7,992 76mm grenades with fuses, 2.3 million 7.62mm rifle bullets, 7,964 57mm unguided rockets and spare parts for Mi-8 helicopters (6).
Albania admitted that it had sent ammunition to Ukraine, but did not specify what kind of ammunition it was. The OSINT community specializing in arms estimates that, for example, Chinese ammunition, which is in the possession of the Albanian army, has been sent from Albania to Ukraine (7) (8).
Regarding Kosovo, there is no information or rumour whatsoever that they have sent any weapons to Ukraine. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, the situation is different. Bosnia’s actual involvement in supplying arms to Ukraine is unknown and most of the information is at the level of superstition without evidence. A few months ago, videos appeared on the internet from the front line, where Ukrainians were filmed using Bosnian-produced M69A 82mm mortars. To this day, it is not officially known how these weapons got into the hands of the Ukrainian army. Theories speak of deliveries through a third country, of direct but secret delivery from Bosnia to Ukraine, or of purchase on the black market. However, there is no evidence for either version. Bosnia officially refuses to admit any delivery of weapons to Ukraine so far (9) (10).
Finally, there is Serbia, which is a very interesting case. At the turn of February and March 2023, documents and a video from the warehouse of a private company in Bratislava appeared on social networks, which were supposed to prove the transfer of rockets for the Grad rocket artillery system to Ukraine. These rockets were supposed to be purchased by Canada from a Serbian company and then transferred to Ukraine via Turkey and Slovakia. Serbia has officially denied that it knowingly sells weapons destined for Ukraine. However, so far the whole story has not been confirmed. On the other hand, the OSINT community dedicated to this issue claims that weapons from Serbia appeared in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers earlier, but they did not receive as much attention from social networks and media as in this case (11) (12) (13).
It is not possible to say with certainty that all arms deliveries are documented. A lot of the information will emerge only after the end of the war. However, what is already an undeniable fact is that weapons from the Western Balkans are flowing into Ukraine and into the hands of the Ukrainian army.
Author: Richard Straka
- Photo: https://unsplash.com/photos/BMbgMSBYCyA