Polish daily targets alleged Czech sanctions busting arms exports

Photo: ČT24

The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita put the Czech Republic in the spotlight on Monday, when it claimed that some Czech firms have been exporting weapons to Russia despite the embargo imposed by the EU and the US in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. In reaction to the criticism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement denying the accusations.

Illustrative photo: ČT24
According to Rzeczpospolita two Moravian firms - Cairo CZ and Exim Arms –supplied US Bushmaster and German Heckler-Koch rifles to Russia this year, despite the arms embargo in force.

The daily which claims to have documents proving its claim, says that while these particular weapons were officially designed for hunters they are commonly used by special elite units in a number of countries, among them the US Delta Force and US Marines.

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine,  photo: ČTK
The daily points out that there are no guarantees that these weapons do not end up in the hands of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and could moreover be used for provocation –their presence in Eastern Ukraine could be seen as evidence that the Americans have been secretly supplying arms to the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday issued a statement strictly denying the information brought by the Polish newspaper. David Frous is the ministry’s spokesman:

“What I can say on behalf of the ministry is that the Czech Republic fully abides by the existing measures and has not been issuing any export licences for the embargoed material since the embargo took effect.

Photo: ČT24
"We act in accordance with the rules and legislation and evaluate all the business deals accordingly, including those contracted before the embargo took effect. That’s what I would stress in connection to the information published by the Polish media.”

Is there a way of checking that the exported weapons don’t end up in someone else’s hands?

“As far as the overall procedure is concerned, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible only partly for the whole process of arms exports from the Czech Republic. Detailed information on the process as such can be offered by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Based on the current legislation, I cannot comment on any individual business transactions.”

Illustrative photo: ČT24
The article in Rzeczpospolita also quoted Jan Jindřich, a Czech official supervising Czech arms exports, who said that the Czech side has guarantees that the weapons are for private use and do not end up in the hands of military or para-military units.

Pierre-Arnaud Lotton, head of the EU’s Conventional Arms Exports Working Group, told the daily that fulfilling the embargo was entirely in the hands of individual member states. He also pointed out that the arms exports in question could have been contracted before August 2014, when the embargo was imposed.