14:34 PM Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Lone American at Kyiv’s Arms Show Draws Buyers
Annual show at Kyiv’s Exhibition Center draws gawkers, gunners and defense procurement professionals
image/svg+xml Kyiv Lutsk Rivne Zhytomyr Lviv Ternopil Khmelnytskyi Uzhgorod Chernivtsi Vinnytsia Chernigiv Sumy Kharkiv Poltava Cherkasy Kirovohrad Lugansk Dnipropetrovsk Donetsk Zaporizhzhia Mykolaiv Odesa Kherson Simferopol Sevastopol Ivano- Frankivsk

by Aisha Down

KYIV – Ukraine is at war. But Washington’s limits to ‘nonlethal, defensive’ security sales whittled down the American vendors at Kyiv’s annual Arms and Security show to one.

“Interest is huge,” said Trent Hutchinson, international sales director of Night Vision Devices, of Allentown, Pennsylvania. He said he was surprised by the number of sales meetings that developed from visitors walking by his modest stand. Thousands of dollars worth of binoculars, monoculars and helmet goggles were displayed on a table.

“Of every 50 men, only one has a night vision system,” he said, while his interpreter talked with a bearded man who identified himself as a former member of the Aidar Batallion.

“Obviously, Ukraine is at war – we know their requirements and that our product is needed,” said Hutchinson who declined to predict whether the Trump Administration will allow the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Trent Hutchison (l), of Night Vision Devices, won State Department approval for the first time to sell his nonlethal, defensive goggles and binoculars in Ukraine (James Brooke)

Other foreign vendors came from countries that are friendly – or allied – with Ukraine: Canada, Poland, Turkey and Pakistan. There was a strong Chinese sales contingent at the largest stand mounted by Motor Sich, the Zaporizhia aviation motor company that is gradually falling under Chinese control.

Chinese salesman inspects an aircraft engine at the stand for Motor Sich, one of the world’s largest engine manufacturers for airplanes and helicopters. A Chinese company, Beijing Skyrizon Aviation, has bought 41 percent of the company’s shares and is moving many operations to Chongqing, China (James Brooke)

The exhibition took place after Ukrainian defense conglomerate Ukroboronoprom unveiled Monday at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC a new fighting robot called the Phantom. Moving on tracks or wheels, the Phantom can be equipped with a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, or grenade launchers. The Phantom has a backup microwave-communication link in case opposing fighters jam or hack its receiver.

At Kyiv’s three day fair, which ended Friday, visitors swarmed booths, crowding shooting ranges and knife sellers, and posing for pictures with tanks.

Despite the crowds, Sergey Byelokoz of YKK Poland, subsidiary of the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, said business was not good.

“We’re interested in wholesalers, and there are not so many wholesalers here,” he said, explaining that most visitors to the fair were private individuals, not manufacturers.

Byelokoz attributed this slump to the hryvnia’s prolonged weakness to the euro, which make EU products harder for Ukrainian wholesalers to afford.

Valerya Gareeva, a visitor to the exposition, poses with a Toyota Ranger fitted with concealed armor. (Noah Fulton Beale)

A few booths away, Alper Alpay, a representative of International Armored Group, an armored vehicle manufacturer, said he’d seen no such slump.

Though he hadn’t closed any deals yet, Mr. Alpay said he expected to sell a number of armored vehicles to private individuals, most of them Toyota Rangers with concealed armor.

“What we’re selling is not related to the economy,” said Mr. Alpay. “It’s related to the tension…. If there’s a need for armored cars, there’ll always be a budget.”

UBJ Editor in Chief contributed reporting to this story

For comments and story ideas, please email UBJ Reporter Aisha Down at

Boys try their aims at digital firing range (Noah Fulton Beale)

Knives, moonshine and midriff were also popular (James Brooke)Camo was among the gear on sale (James Brooke)

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