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EU to possibly supply Ukraine with some 150 Libya-bound confiscated armored vehicles.

| 2023

According to a report by Ruben Koops in RTL Nieuws, the Dutch Prosecution Service has launched a criminal investigation into a Dutch shipping company for violating the arms embargo against Libya. In 2022, a vessel operated by Shipping Company Groningen attempted to transport 41 BATT UMG armored vehicles to Libya but was apprehended. There are discussions in Brussels about potentially donating the seized armored vehicles to Ukraine.
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The MV Meerdijk was carrying 41 BATT UMG armored 4x4 vehicles bound for Benghazi, a coastal city under the control of rebel general Khalifa Haftar (Picture source: EUNAVFOR IRINI)

The Dutch Functional Public Prosecution Service has confirmed to RTL Nieuws that it has initiated a criminal investigation into the Groningen shipping company. Due to the ongoing investigation, specific details are being withheld. However, a UN committee responsible for monitoring the Libyan arms embargo has indicated that the Groningen company breached the relevant sanctions.

Since 2011, Libya has been embroiled in a civil war, and stringent military and economic sanctions have been imposed to facilitate an end to the armed conflict among various factions. On October 11, 2022, the Dutch cargo ship MV Meerdijk was intercepted off the North African coast by an EU military mission IRINI naval vessel. This mission conducts patrols in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent violations of the UN arms embargo.

The MV Meerdijk was carrying 41 BATT UMG armored 4x4 vehicles bound for Benghazi, a coastal city under the control of rebel general Khalifa Haftar. Upon inspection by IRINI mission personnel, the military vehicles were discovered, leading to the vessel's diversion to the French port city of Marseille. The vehicles were seized due to sanctions violations, and subsequently, the MV Meerdijk was allowed to continue its journey.

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BATT UMG seized on the MV Meerdijk (Picture source: UN)

Following the seizure, Shipping Company Groningen asserted that it had complied with all applicable regulations, possessed the necessary permits and documentation, and would cooperate with IRINI inspectors' inquiry. However, UN monitors identified discrepancies. For instance, the MV Meerdijk's records lacked an 'end user declaration,' a vital document for transporting military goods. Furthermore, despite attempts to seek clarification from Shipping Company Groningen, no response was received, and the company declined to comment on the matter when approached by RTL Nieuws.

The manufacturer of the vehicles claimed that they were intended for maintaining order and combating illegal immigration, rather than for warfare, implying that they fell outside the scope of sanctions. Nevertheless, the UN committee rejected this assertion.

Notably, the 41 armored all-terrain vehicles were not the only ones seized in the past year. In the summer of 2022, IRINI intercepted another transport vessel carrying over 100 modified Toyota off-road vehicles equipped with weapon mounts and armor.

To date, at least 146 military vehicles earmarked for Libya have been seized under the auspices of the EU mission IRINI, Ruben Koops mentions. These armored vehicles are currently stored in a warehouse near Marseille.

In a similar vein, the United States recently seized a substantial quantity of firearms and ammunition en route to Yemen's civil war, subsequently donating them to Ukraine. A Dutch official, supported by influential MEPs such as Guy Verhofstadt and Nathalie Loisseu, advocates for Europe to take similar action, suggesting that donating nearly 150 vehicles would send a strong signal to Russia that Europe is committed to assisting Ukraine in every way possible.

A spokesperson for the EU mission IRINI has confirmed that it is legally permissible to donate the seized vehicles to Ukraine. The final decision, however, rests with the European Council gathering the of Government leaders.

Defense News October 2023

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