(DAILY BEAST) As the Euromaidan protests enter their fourth month, Ukraine’s embattled President Yanukovych is turning to one resource where there is no question of his government’s supremacy: firearms. Horrific images and video showing men who appear to be members of the Ukrainian security force firing on protestors with sniper rifles and AK-47s have appeared online, the latest escalation in a series of violent engagements that have left close to 100 dead on the streets of Kiev over the past week.
For American gun lobbyists who have cited easy access to firearms as an insurance policy against government oppression, the turmoil in Kiev is a perfect talking point. A nation with restrictive laws governing private gun ownership, Ukraine’s government is in possession of more than seven million guns, a larger stockpile than every other post-Soviet state combined. The cache, largely USSR-era small arms and ammunition, is large enough to fuel conflicts (PDF) as far away as Libya, Chad, and Azerbaijan.
Compared to the three million weapons, both legal and illicit, in private Ukrainian hands, the gulf in firepower is staggering. By comparison, in the United States, there are up to 310 million guns in private hands, and 3.85 millionpossessed by the military and police forces. Private possession of handguns in Ukraine is permitted only with a license, approval of which requires an applicant prove a genuine reason to possess a firearm, a list unlikely to include “armed revolution.”