Ukraine paid contractors hundreds of millions of dollars for weapons that were not delivered, and some of the highly publicized weapons donated by its allies were so dilapidated that they were only good enough to be stripped for parts. The NYT writes about this with reference to the documents of the Ukrainian government.
According to these documents, as of late last year, Kyiv paid arms suppliers more than $800 million after the Russian invasion in February 2022 for contracts that remained wholly or partly unfulfilled.
Two people involved in Ukraine's arms purchases said that some of the missing weapons were eventually delivered, while in other cases money was returned by intermediaries. But as of early this spring, hundreds of millions of dollars had been paid, including to state-owned companies, for weapons that were never received, one of the sources told the publication.
“We had cases where we paid money and didn’t receive it,” Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gavrilov, who handles arms procurement, said in a recent interview. He said that the government of Ukraine this year began to analyze its past purchases and exclude problematic contractors.
After Russia's invasion last year, Western allies sent tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine. As of last week, the United States alone has provided about $40 billion in military aid (and more in the form of financial and humanitarian aid). European allies also provided tens of billions of dollars. In addition, Ukraine has spent its own billions of dollars in the private arms market.
Many of the Western Allies' shipments involve advanced weapons, such as US air defense systems, which have proven to be highly effective against Russian drones and missiles. But in other cases, the Allies provided stockpiled equipment that, at best, needed major repairs.
About 30% of the Kyiv arsenal is constantly under repair, the newspaper writes. That's a high figure for a military that needs whatever weapons they can get to mount a counteroffensive, defense experts say.
“If I were the head of the army that donated equipment to Ukraine, I would be very embarrassed professionally if I donated things in poor condition,” said Ben Barry, a ground combat expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
A case in point is the recent delivery of 33 self-propelled howitzers donated by the Italian government. The video shows smoke coming out of one of the engines, and coolant flowing out of the other.
The Italian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the vehicles were decommissioned several years ago, but Ukraine still requested them "for overhaul and commissioning, given the urgent need for means to counter Russian aggression."
Ukrainian government documents show that the Department of Defense paid $19.8 million to Tampa-based U.S. arms dealer Ultra Defense Corporation to repair 33 howitzers. In January, 13 of these howitzers were sent to Ukraine, but arrived, according to one of the documents, "unsuitable for combat missions."
Officials in Kyiv accused the American company of failing to complete work that should have been completed by the end of December. “The American company, in offering its services, had no prior intention of fulfilling its obligations,” Ukrainian Defense Procurement Director Volodymyr Pikuzo wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to the Pentagon Inspector General.
Matthew Herring, the company's chief executive, vehemently denied the accusation. “Each of them worked when we delivered them,” he wrote in a text message this month, saying the Ukrainians did not maintain the howitzers properly after they were handed over. This also applies to a coolant leak, which, according to him, “magically appeared after delivery to Ukraine.”
The Pentagon Inspector General is investigating the matter, according to a US Defense Department spokesman and an American who worked with Ukraine to purchase weapons.