By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) – The United States is rapidly processing requests from Americans to export firearms and ammunition to Ukraine, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Wednesday.
Americans are collecting weapons for Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on his citizens to defend the country from invading Russian forces and promised to arm them.
The Commerce Department said it had imposed export controls on Russia to “degrade its ability to sustain military aggression” and Americans should check agency regulations to see if a license was needed to ship specific firearms to Ukraine.
“The department has been processing requests rapidly for the export of firearms and ammunition to Ukraine under its existing processes and authorities,” a department spokesperson said.
Americans are donating thousands of sets of body armor and millions of rounds of ammunition in response to Ukraine’s pleas for military support.
Equipment donors and U.S. volunteers for Ukraine’s armed forces must navigate U.S. export license requirements for items like military-grade bullet proof vests.
Controls at airports on volunteers carrying such body-armor appear to have eased, a U.S. volunteer in Poland said.
“From the latest wave of people carrying plates this week, not a single person has been stopped,” said the volunteer, who asked not to be named, referring to the ceramic plates that make vests bullet-proof.
Two Americans shipping military supplies to Ukraine, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had seen rapid export license approvals.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, on New York’s Long Island, on Wednesday sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting immediate federal approval to ship more than 50 rifles he had gathered in a donation drive for Ukraine.
“The fact that we do have a lot of legal gun ownership in the United States means that, you know, people may have a spare gun to contribute,” said Blakeman, adding that he had received interest from across the country in similar gun drives.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Donna Bryson and Leslie Adler)