Russian weapons in Ukraine ‘powered’ by Western parts: Report

More than 450 foreign-made components have been found in Russian weapons seized in Ukraine, according to a new report that Moscow had acquired crucial technology from companies in the United States, Europe and Asia before the invasion.

Since the start of the war five months ago, Ukrainian forces have seized or recovered intact or partially damaged Russian weapons from the battlefield. Research by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defense think-tank found 27 of these weapons systems, ranging from cruise missiles to air defense, to be largely dependent on Western components.

This is the most detailed assessment published to date of the role played by Western actors in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

About two-thirds of the components based on weapons seized from Ukraine were manufactured by US-based companies, RUSI found. Products manufactured by US-based Analog Devices and Texas Instruments account for nearly a quarter of all Western components in weapons.

Other components come from companies in Japan, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, where RUSI is based.

“Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed by Russian weapons that rely heavily on Western electronics,” said Jack Watling, a land warfare expert at RUSI.

With many foreign components found in everyday household items such as microwaves that are not subject to export controls, RUSI said that strengthening export restrictions and enforcement could make it difficult for Russia to replenish weapons such as cruise missiles.

In one case, a Russian 9M727 cruise missile — one of the country’s most advanced weapons that can maneuver at low altitudes to evade radar and attack targets hundreds of kilometers away — has 31 foreign components.

The parts were made by companies including US-based Texas Instruments Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, as well as Cypress Semiconductor, now owned by German company Infineon AG, the RUSI investigation found.

In another case, the Russian Kh-101 cruise missile, which has been used to attack Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kiev, also had 31 foreign components, including parts manufactured by companies such as US-based Intel Corporation and AMD-owned Xilinx.

In response to questions about how their chips ended up in Russian weapons, the companies said they comply with trade sanctions and have stopped selling components to Russia.

Analog Devices said the company has closed its business in Russia and instructed distributors to stop shipments to the country.

Texas Instruments said it complies with all laws in the countries it operates in and that the parts found in the Russian weapons were designed for commercial production. Intel said it “does not support or tolerate the use of our products to violate human rights”.

Infineon said it was “very concerned” if its products were being used for purposes for which they were not designed. AMD said it strictly complies with all global export control laws.

Many of the foreign components cost only a few dollars, and Russian companies could have purchased them online through domestic or international distributors before the start of the Ukraine invasion because they could be used in non-military applications.

However, more than 80 Western-produced microchips have been subject to US export controls since at least 2014, meaning they would require a license to ship to Russia, RUSI said. According to RUSI, companies exporting parts had a responsibility to carry out due diligence to ensure they were not sent to the Russian military or for military end-use.

The investigation’s findings show how Russia’s military relies on foreign microchips for everything from tactical radios to drones and precision long-range munitions, and how Western governments have been slow to limit Russia’s access to this technology, especially after President Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea in 2014. .

Russia’s war with Ukraine, which began on February 24, has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed many cities. Russia’s superior firepower, including the use of cruise and ballistic missiles, has helped its forces grind through eastern Ukraine and occupy a fifth of the country.

According to the staff of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Russian forces have fired more than 3,650 missiles and guided rockets in the first five months of the war.

These include 9M727 and Kh-101 missiles. Russian missiles have been used to strike targets including rail lines to disrupt western supply routes, military infrastructure, and civilian targets such as shopping centers and hospitals. Russia said it only fired at military targets. Russian officials had no further comment for this story.

After the invasion of Ukraine, the US announced sweeping sanctions to try to weaken Russia’s economy and its military. It included a ban on several sensitive microchips being sold to Russia. Countries in Europe, as well as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea – all major chipmaking countries – have announced similar restrictions.

Russia has described the conflict as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine. Moscow has cast the sanctions as countermeasures and denied targeting civilians.

According to RUSI, Russia is currently working to find new ways to secure access to Western microchips. Many of the components are sold through distributors in Asia, such as Hong Kong, which act as gateways for electronics that reach the Russian military or companies acting on its behalf, RUSI found.

The Russian government did not respond to a request for comment.

The US government said in March that Russian companies are the leading companies buying electronics for Russia’s military. RUSI reported that Russian customs records show that in March last year, a company imported $600,000 worth of electronics manufactured by Texas Instruments through a Hong Kong distributor.

Seven months later, the same company imported another $1.1m worth of microelectronics made by Xilinx, RUSI said.

Texas Instruments and AMD-owned Xilinx did not respond to requests for comment about the customs data.

Russia’s military could be permanently weakened if Western governments tighten export controls, shut down the country’s clandestine procurement network and prevent sensitive elements from forming in states that support Russia, RUSI said.

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