Ukraine: Russia allegedly using Zaporizhzhia plant for supplies
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A new report published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank warned Russia was routinely circumventing sanctions using tortuous supply routes to get hold of parts, often without the knowledge of manufacturers in the West. A team of RUSI researchers found more than 450 components from countries including the United States, Europe and Asia in Russian missiles and other weapons recovered in Ukraine.
Since Putin ordered his invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s military has captured or recovered from the battlefield multiple intact or partially damaged Russian weapons.
When disassembled, 27 of these weapons and military systems, including from cruise missiles and air defence systems, were discovered to rely predominantly on Western technology.
The document is the most detailed published analysis so far in respect of the part played by Western components in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Roughly two-thirds of the components were manufactured by US-based companies, RUSI found, based on the weapons recovered from Ukraine.
Products manufactured by the US-based Analog Devices and Texas Instruments accounted for nearly a quarter of all the Western components in the weapons.
Other components came from companies in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
Jack Watling, a land warfare specialist at RUSI and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “Russian weapons that are critically dependent upon Western electronics have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians.”
While many of the foreign components are found in everyday household goods such as microwaves which are not subject to export controls, a strengthening of export restrictions and enforcement could make it harder for Russia to replenish its arsenal of weapons such as cruise missiles, RUSI said.
In one case, a Russian 9M727 cruise missile, which is one of the most advanced weapons Putin has at his disposal, and which can manoeuvre at low altitude to evade radar and can strike targets hundreds of miles away, contained 31 foreign components.
They were made by companies that included US-based Texas Instruments Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, as well as Cypress Semiconductor, now owned by Infineon AG, a German company, the RUSI investigation found.
In another case, a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile, used to bomb Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, also contained 31 foreign components with parts made by companies including US-based Intel Corporation and AMD-owned Xilinx.
Asked how their chips ended up in Russian weapons, the companies said they comply with trade sanctions and they have stopped selling components to Russia.
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Analog Devices said the company closed their business in Russia and instructed distributors to halt shipments to the country.
Texas Instruments said it follows all laws in the countries where they operate and the parts found in the Russian weapons were designed for commercial products. Intel said it “does not support or tolerate our products being used to violate human rights.”
Infineon said it was “deeply concerned” if its products are being used for purposes which they were not designed for. AMD said it strictly follows all global export control laws.
Many of the components only cost a few dollars and Russian companies would have been able to stockpile them prior to the start of the Ukraine invasion online via domestic or international distributors because they could be used in non-military applications.
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Nevertheless, more than 80 Western-manufactured microchips were subject to US export controls since at least 2014 meaning they would have required a licence to be shipped to Russia, RUSI said.
The companies exporting the parts had a responsibility to carry out due diligence to ensure they were not being sent to the Russian military or for a military end-use, according to RUSI.
The investigation’s findings show how Russia’s military remains reliant on foreign microchips for everything from tactical radios to drones and precision long-range munitions, and that Western governments were slow to limit Russia’s access to these technologies, particularly after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Russia’s superior firepower, including its use of cruise and ballistic missiles, has helped its forces cut through eastern Ukraine and occupy about one-fifth of the country.
Russian troops have launched more than 3,650 missiles and guided rockets in the first five months of the war, according to the Staff of the National Security and Defense Council. These include the 9M727 and Kh-101 missiles.
Russian missiles have been used to hit targets including railway lines to disrupt Western supply lines, military infrastructure and civilian targets such as shopping centres and hospitals. Russia said it has only fired at military targets.
Following Putin’s invasion, the United States announced sweeping sanctions to try to weaken Russia’s economy and its military. This included a ban on many sensitive microchips being sold to Russia. Countries in Europe, as well as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea – all key chipmaking countries – have announced similar restrictions.
Russia is currently working to find new routes to secure access to Western microchips, according to RUSI. Many components are sold through distributors operating in Asia, such as Hong Kong, which acts as a gateway for electronics making their way to the Russian military or companies acting on its behalf, RUSI found.
In March the US government said many Russian firms were front companies which have been buying up electronics for Russia’s military.
Russian customs records show that in March last year one company imported $600,000 worth of electronics manufactured by Texas Instruments through a Hong Kong distributor, RUSI said. Seven months later, the same company imported another $1.1 million worth of microelectronics made by Xilinx, RUSI said.
Texas Instruments and AMD-owned Xilinx did not respond to a request for comment about the customs data.
Russia’s military could be permanently weakened if Western governments strengthen export controls, manage to shut down the country’s clandestine procurement networks and prevent sensitive components being manufactured in states that support Russia, RUSI’s report concluded.
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