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UN: Russian invasion has given "new and emerging" organized crime businesses room to develop

According to the UN's Crime and Justice research branch, the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has allowed "new and emerging organised criminal enterprises to develop and expand."

According to a recent report by the UN's Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), organized crime in the country has expanded to include activities like the transportation of products "under the guise of humanitarian aid."

The research group noted that while illicit trade in timber had "plummeted," other criminal networking activities, like "arms and human trafficking," had "a significant boost" from the conflict.

"These examples demonstrate how transnational crime can rapidly transform in Europe, its borderlands and at its seaports."  According to UNICRI, "The conflict may result in changing routes and shifting production, allowing for new opportunities for criminal networks to emerge in Ukraine and across the wider region."

The body revealed that, unlike before the conflict, Odesa is no longer a "regional smuggling hub."

The "comprehensive set of sanctions imposed on Russia" by countries in response to the invasion of Ukraine is one effect of the conflict on criminal activity in the area.

Russia is not allowed to purchase high-end items or microchips from other countries. "To fill this void, illicit networks have emerged to meet the demand. Due to these sanctions, smuggling networks are likely to become more innovative," according to the UNICRI

The research team issued a warning, stating that "law enforcement measures to detect and seize these illegal flows will most likely be in catch-up mode, struggling to predict the new modus operandi of traffickers."

The UNICRI has issued a warning that considering the "new routes, networks and illegal markets that may emerge in response to the conflict and related international sanctions, law enforcement agencies in the region should receive support on how to deploy adequate response mechanisms to counteract their development and potential impacts on regional security."

According to the report, illicit trading in a variety of commodities only experienced "temporary setbacks and rebound soon." As the war dragged on, illegal markets in drugs, guns, and other commodities have either "grown or remained at the same level," despite some local production of illicit items having decreased in the initial weeks following the initial invasion.

However, it appears that the breakdown of the illegal trade networks across Donetsk and Luhansk is the sole long-lasting disruption. "Before February 2022, cross-border criminal cooperation between Ukrainian and Russian criminal groups was commonplace, this is no longer the case."


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