Defense Department Denies Reports of U.S. Aid Being Sold on Ukrainian Black Market
As the stakes for control of Ukraine escalate, reports surfaced this week that individuals are selling U.S. food aid meant for Ukrainian soldiers on the internet, claiming to have American approval. The Department of Defense tells Breitbart News, however, that all aid is "accounted for" and the sites may be part of a "disinformation campaign."
Time magazine first reported that military meals ready to eat (MREs) were surfacing online at dubious outlets and promoted by military supplies individuals. The timing of their arrival to Ukrainian online markets coincided with the MREs' arrival from the United States to the Ukrainian military. On March 30, the United States government announced that it had shipped 300,000 MREs to Ukraine for use by soldiers of the Ukrainian army should they have to confront Russian forces.
Time spoke to one salesman, Vladimir Belonog, who told the publication that the products he was selling, which were very clearly labeled “U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful,” were not from the shipment arriving in Ukraine. As an explanation for where he got them, if not the shipment sent to his country, he told Time, "These things are easy to get, and they’re for sale all over the place.” He has since deleted the listing online selling the products. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government told Time that "the meals are safe and sound at our warehouses in Kiev," but Time insisted that "it has been impossible to confirm" that the aid was safe.
A report in Vice magazine followed Time's, which linked to several other websites claiming to sell MREs. One such website appeared to explain (in the broken English of Google translate) that it was selling the items legally: "IN CONNECTION WITH MUCH hype and false information is reported that over supplies AMERICAN SUHPAYA (ready-to-eat meals) We cooperate with the U.S. site."
Vice notes the extremely inexpensive prices for which these items are listed – about $12 for twelve meals. Neither Vice nor Time confirm that the listings will result in shipments of MREs; no one has confirmed buying one online.
Neither report included comment from the American government. The Department of Defense told Breitbart News, however, the same information Ukrainian authorities gave Time: wherever these meals came from, they are not from the latest shipment to Ukraine, if they exist at all.
Department of Defense Spokeswoman Eileen Lainez told Breitbart News that the department had "received assurances from the Ukrainian government that the MREs we delivered are accounted for and are being securely maintained." She added that the Defense Department could not speak to the "validity" of the websites highlighted by Time and Vice, or if they were real websites "or just disinformation."
MREs are common aid packages and have been the subject of controversy before. In 2006, individuals receiving MREs as aid after Hurricane Katrina were confirmed to be selling them on eBay, an action Project on Government Oversight general counsel Scott Amey called "absolutely outrageous."