Exclusive Russian Weapons in Ukraine Powered by Hundreds of Western Parts


By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 450 foreign-made components have been found in Russian weapons recovered from Ukraine, evidence that Moscow acquired critical technology from companies in the United States, Europe and Asia in the years leading up to the invasion, according to a new report by the Royal United Services Institute’s defense think tank.

Since the start of the war five months ago, the Ukrainian army has captured or recovered intact or partially damaged Russian weapons from the battlefield. When disassembled, 27 of these weapons and military systems, ranging from cruise missiles to air defense systems, were found to rely primarily on Western components, according to research shared with Reuters.

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

About two-thirds of the components were made by US-based companies, RUSI found, based on weapons recovered in Ukraine. Products produced by the American companies Analog Devices and Texas Instruments accounted for almost a quarter of all Western weapon components.

Other components came from companies in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

“Russian weapons that are critically dependent on Western electronics have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians,” RUSI land warfare expert Jack Watling told Reuters.

While many foreign components are found in common household items such as microwaves that are not subject to export controls, RUSI said tightening export restrictions and enforcement could make it more difficult for Russia to replenish its arsenal of 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 can hit targets hundreds of miles away, contained 31 foreign components. The parts were made by companies such as Texas Instruments Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, based in the United States, as well as Cypress Semiconductor, which is now owned by Infineon AG, a German company, according to the RUSI investigation.

In another case, a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile, which was used to strike Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv, also had 31 foreign components with parts made by companies such as the US-based Intel Corporation and the AMD Xilinx company.

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

Analog Devices said the company had closed operations in Russia and asked distributors to stop shipments to the country.

Texas Instruments said it abides by all laws of the countries where they operate and that parts found in Russian weapons were designed for commercial products. Intel said it “does not support or condone our products being used to violate human rights.”

Infineon said it is “deeply concerned” if its products are used for purposes for which they were not intended. AMD said it strictly adheres to all global export control laws.

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

However, more than 80 Western-made microchips had been subject to US export controls since at least 2014, meaning they would have required a license to be shipped to Russia, RUSI said. Companies exporting the parts had a responsibility to exercise due diligence to ensure they were not sent to the Russian military or for military end use, according to RUSI.

The findings of the investigation show that the Russian military remains dependent on foreign microchips for everything from tactical radios to drones and long-range precision munitions, and that Western governments have been slow to limit the access of the Russia to these technologies, 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 devastated several cities. Russia’s superior firepower, including its use of cruise and ballistic missiles, helped its forces cross eastern Ukraine and occupy about a fifth of the country.

Russian troops fired 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 strike targets such as railway lines to disrupt Western supply lines, military infrastructure and civilian targets such as shopping malls and hospitals. Russia said it only fired at military targets. Russian authorities did not provide further comment on this story.

In the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, the United States announced sweeping sanctions in an attempt to weaken the Russian economy and military. This included banning the sale of many sensitive microchips to Russia. Countries in Europe, as well as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea – all key chip-making countries – have announced similar restrictions. Russia describes the conflict as a special military operation aimed at disarming Ukraine. Moscow called the sanctions a hostile act and denied targeting civilians.

Russia is currently working to find new ways 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 going to 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 the Russian companies were front companies buying electronics for the Russian military. Russian customs records show that in March last year, a company imported $600,000 worth of electronic devices made by Texas Instruments through a Hong Kong distributor, RUSI said. Seven months later, the same company imported an additional $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 on the customs data.

Russia’s military could be permanently weakened if Western governments tighten export controls, manage to shut down the country’s clandestine supply networks and prevent the manufacture of sensitive components in states that support Russia, RUSI said.

((Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Janet McBride))

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