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Killer gangs arm up with Russia's new super pistol

EAST European weapons are now fuelling Ireland's gang warfare.

A Russian machine pistol never before seen in Ireland was used in last week's shooting in Stepaside and is yet another indicator of the arms trail stretching to former Soviet bloc countries.

Lithuanian Virgis Alexunas (38) was seriously wounded in the attack in the southside suburb in Grianan Fidh, Aiken's Village, in Sandyford.

His 17-year-old son, Valkaras, was also injured in the ambush when he smashed a window of the gunmen's car.

The victims were clothes collectors and not involved in crime. They are believed to have been targeted by a Dublin gang.

Gardai had never seen the type of weapon used in the shooting -- it is believed to have been modified to fire fully automatic bursts rather than single shots. In the UK, the most "popular" handgun is a Russian Baikal pistol designed to fire teargas pellets.

It has been modified by illegal armourers in Lithuania to fire real bullets.

In Ireland, detectives have been stunned by the range and sophistication of the types of weapons coming out of eastern Europe.

Last year, the Herald revealed how Irish gangsters could buy a fully automatic Kalashnikov AK-47 military assault rifle for as little as €300.

Rocket launchers can be bought for €700 in some former eastern bloc states.

Last May, gardai seized two rocket launchers, a Russian RPG-22 and a Serb-made M80 capable of destroying a house or an armoured car.





Rifles

Communist armies and police in the former Soviet Union were armed with standardised pistols and rifles, but the break-up of the old bloc saw arms designers in various countries come up with an array of new sub-machinegun and pistol designs.

Some of them have been adopted by those states' police and paramilitary forces.

Most fire the 9mm Makarov pistol cartridge, slightly less powerful than the 9mm Parabellum bullet favoured by Dublin and Limerick criminals.

But others have been specifically designed to fire the Nato standard 9mm Parabellum in a bid to attract Western buyers.

In recent years, gardai have seized guns from Serbia, Russia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary.

Many of the guns are brought into Ireland as part of drug shipments, but others may be smuggled in through our ports.

Increasingly, Serb and east European handguns are making their appearance here, including Czech .32 calibre M70 pistols equipped with silencers.

Europol, the European law enforcement agency, is working with gardai and other police forces in a weapons crackdown.

The Austrian-made Glock, however, is still used in around 40pc of Irish gangland murders, with the pocket-sized Glock 26 being especially popular.

mlavery@herald.ie