Crossing the line: how the illegal trade with occupied Donbas has undermined defence integrity

Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO)

The Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO), a joint initiative of the Transparency International Ukraine and Тrаnsраrеnсу Intеrnаtiоnаl Defence & Security, analyzed the illegal trade with the CADLR and elaborated its recommendations which NAKO hopes will contribute to the decreasing corruption on the contact line that enables the illegal movement of goods to the NGCA. The NAKO conducted this research based on 40 interviews with both former and active ATO participants, including representatives of different defence and security agencies – Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), State Fiscal Service (SFS), State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS) and Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) – volunteers, civil activists, NGO and human rights activists, judges and advocates, journalists covering events in Eastern Ukraine, and local residents of the both GCA and NGCA. The NAKO studied the legal framework on the movements of goods to the CADLR, media reports and court decisions in the Single State Register of Court Judgments.

This report aims to answer a number of questions related to illicit trade to CADLR and its aim is to recommend a way to decrease the volumes of illegal trade with the CADLR based on detailed evidence of how the trade is occurring. It does not look at the political arrangements and connections that might enable the trade to occur, but suggests mechanisms and processes for preventing and reducing the trade at a practical level, even if corrupt officials are still in place. The illegal trade touches not only on corruption, but also on issues of military effectiveness, economic loss, and political and human rights problem. A comprehensive approach to addressing the problem will require the involvement of representatives of different authorities as well as civil society since experience has shown that the authorities either do not have enough resources or do not want to solve this problem. Furthermore, certain individuals conducting state control are directly implicated in illegal trade with the CADLR and receive illegal profit. To most effectively respond to the problem, these individuals should be held accountable.