Last month Politico Europe published a story reporting that Russia had used up much of its stockpile of high-tech ordnance and was having trouble replacing it. That’s because much of the tech used in modern Russian weaponry is dependent on chips and parts that come from the US. So long as sanctions are in place, that puts Russia in a tough spot.
Kyiv is acutely aware that the outcome of the war is likely to hinge on whether Russia finds a way to regain access to high-tech chips, and is out to ensure it doesn’t get them. In order to flag the danger, Ukraine is sending out international warnings that the Kremlin has drawn up shopping lists of semiconductors, transformers, connectors, casings, transistors, insulators and other components, most made by companies in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., Taiwan and Japan, among others, which it needs to fuel its war effort…
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stressed the war had come to an inflection point where the technological edge was proving decisive.
“According to our information, Russians have already spent almost half … of their weaponry arsenal,” he told POLITICO.
Today, the DOJ announced charges in two separate cases that involve efforts to evade sanctions and deliver US tech to Russia. The first scheme involved both Venezuelan oil and US military tech.
A 12-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York charging five Russian nationals, Yury Orekhov, Artem Uss, Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, also known as “Lana Neumann,” Timofey Telegin and Sergey Tulyakov with various charges related to a global procurement, smuggling and money laundering network…
As alleged, Orekov has served as the part owner, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA GmbH), a privately held industrial equipment and commodity trading company located in Hamburg, Germany. The other owner of NDA GmbH is Artem Uss, the son of the governor of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region. Kuzurgasheva served as the Chief Executive Officer of one of the scheme’s shell companies and worked for NDA GmbH under Orekhov. Using NDA GmbH as a front company, Orekhov and Kuzurgasheva sourced and purchased sensitive military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers, including advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, radar, satellites and other space-based military applications. These items were shipped to Russian end users, including sanctioned companies controlled by Telegin and Tulyakov, such as Radioavtomatika, Radioexport and Abtronics, that serviced Russia’s defense sector. Some of the same electronic components obtained through the criminal scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine.
In 2019, Orekhov travelled to the United States to source parts used in the Russian-made Sukhoi fighter aircraft and the American-made F-22 Raptor stealth fighter aircraft. Orekhov and Uss also used NDA GmbH as a front to smuggle hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela to Russian and Chinese purchasers, including a Russian aluminum company controlled by a sanctioned oligarch and the world’s largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate based in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. Serrano Ponce and Soto brokered deals worth millions of dollars between PDVSA and NDA GmbH, which were routed through a complex group of shell companies and bank accounts to disguise the transactions. In one communication with Serrano Ponce, Orekhov openly admitted that he was acting on behalf of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, saying “He [the oligarch] is under sanctions as well. That’s why we [are] acting from this company [NDA GmbH]. As fronting.” The scheme also involved falsified shipping documents and supertankers that deactivated their GPS navigation systems to obscure the Venezuelan origin of their oil.
The other case announced today involved an attempt by Latvians to purchase a “jig grinder” to Russia, which is prohibited as it’s a machine used in the nuclear defense industry:
According to court documents, beginning in 2018, Eriks Mamonovs, 33, and Vadims Ananics, 46, both citizens of Latvia who operated CNC Weld, a Latvia-based corporation, conspired with Stanislav Romanyuk, 37, a citizen of Ukraine and resident of Estonia who operated Estonia-based BY Trade OU, and others, including Janis Uzbalis, 46, of Latvia and individuals in Russia and a Russia-based company, to violate U.S. export laws and regulations and smuggle a jig grinder that was manufactured in Connecticut to Russia…
A jig grinder is a high-precision grinding machine system that does not require a license to export to European Union countries but does require a license for export and reexport to Russia because of its applications in nuclear proliferation and defense programs. At no time did the defendants apply for, receive or possess a license of authorization from the U.S. Department of Commerce to export or reexport the jig grinder to Russia, as required by the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which restrict the export of items that could make a significant contribution to the military potential of other nations or that could be detrimental to the foreign policy or national security of the United States.
U.S. authorities, working with Latvian authorities, intercepted the jig grinder in Riga, Latvia, before it was to be shipped to Russia…
Ananics, Mamonovs and Uzbalis were arrested on Oct. 18 in Riga, Latvia at the request of the United States. Romanyuk was arrested in Tallinn, Estonia at the request of the United States, on June 13, 2022. The Justice Department is seeking their extradition.
The DOJ press release doesn’t specify which company they attempted to get this from but this appears to be the kind of machine they are talking about. It looks like it’s basically a high precision CNC machine.
In both cases you get the sense that Russia is getting desperate after having been cut off from buying high tech gear it can’t manufacture on its own.