Until the very recent events of the full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian army did not have any meaningful numbers of 9x39mm weapons in its possession. Of course now, after more than a year since the invasion and some considerable successes, Ukrainian Armed Forces acquired significant number of both AS "Val" and VSS "Vintorez" rifles as battle pickups. But, since this website's research is generally about the events prior to 2014, the article, we are going to talk about one specific instance when these rifles were used.
Ukrainian Forces in Iraq
The Ukrainian Armed troops were part of the international coalition troops that went to Iraq to help rebuild and stabilize the country after the war. In 2003, about 1,650 Ukrainian soldiers made up a brigade-sized group that was sent to Iraq.
The main job of the Ukrainian troops was to keep the Al-Kut area of southeast Iraq safe and do checks in the area. The Ukrainian force stayed in Iraq until 2005, when the country pulled its troops out because more and more people at home wanted the deployment to end.
During their time in Iraq, Ukrainian troops lost a number of people, both in battle and in ways that had nothing to do with fighting. In addition to their military duties, Ukrainian troops in Iraq worked on a number of reconstruction and humanitarian projects, such as building schools and medical facilities, providing clean water, and giving out humanitarian aid.
Overall, the Ukrainian deployment to Iraq was seen as a big help to the international coalition in Iraq, and many international observers praised the country for being ready to put resources into stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.
Ukrainian armed personnel in Iraq after the 2005 withdrawal
As stated in the previous article, Ukrainian contingent was mainly pulled out of Iraq by the end of 2005. However, the Ukrainian diplomatic mission was still present at sight. The embassy needed armed protection on the ground.
For this job, the "Alpha" team of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) was assigned. Having prior experience in similar task, they were best for the role out of who was available at the time.
The use of VSS Vintorez by the SBU "Alpha" team in Iraq
So, here we get to the point of the article. As we can see on the photos below, SBU team in Iraq did, in fact, use VSS Vintorez rifles. It is unclear if it was just the personal weapon or if they actually used it in combat. However, as far as it's known, "Alpha" team did see some action in Iraq, so the chances are they used it in CQB combat.
The question of where the rifles came from is also an opened one. In theory, these were the leftovers from the Soviet arsenals after the collapse in 1991. However, there is not much evidence that any units located in Ukraine in 1991 were armed with VSS Vintorez rifles. Moreover, it is unlikely that VSS Vintorez was produced in any meaningful numbers by the time of the collapse.
There is a good theory, that these rifles were purchased from the Russian manufacturer in the late 90s. At the time all branches of Ukrainian armed services only had regular Soviet made AKs, which were not always suitable for the task. Hence, a lot of experimental purchases were made in the 90s and 00s - from the Austrian HBAR to Turkish MP-5. It would not be surprising if some amount of VSS Vintorez rifles were purchased for the special service for the trial.
All in all, if you are into the topic of Ukrainian army and specifically Ukrainian peacekeepers - subscribe to the waiting list for the upcoming book.