U.S. resumes 'on-site' inspections to keep track of weapons in Ukraine

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has restarted on-site inspections in Ukraine to help keep track of the billions of dollars of weapons being provided to Kyiv, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

Moving large amounts of weaponry into the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two carries with it risks that some could fall into the wrong hands.

But U.S. officials have said that it has been a risk worth taking in providing about $18 billion in weapons since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Ukrainian government had committed to safeguarding and accounting for the weapons and there was no credible evidence they were being diverted.

But, the official said, the United States had recently restarted "on-site" inspections to check weapons stocks in Ukraine "whenever and wherever the security conditions allow."

On-site inspections are a routine part of agreements countries sign with the United States when they are provided certain weapons.

"We'll continue to work with our colleagues across the U.S. government and with our international partners to ensure accountability of security assistance now and in the future," the official told reporters.

The inspections are being carried out by the defense attache and office of defense cooperations at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, which re-opened in May.

The official declined to say how many on-site visits had been carried out so far, but acknowledged that it was not always easy to keep track of weapons in an area with an active conflict.

The United States cannot visit some places, like those close to the frontline, and is providing training to Ukrainian forces so they can provide better data, the official added.

Smaller and Highly portable missiles such as Stinger surface-to-air missiles -- which are a type of MANPAD -- can help win wars, but in the past they have also been lost, sold, or wound up in the arsenals of extremist groups.

Last week, the State Department laid out a series of steps it would take in the coming years to counter the diversion of weapons in eastern Europe.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali)