European makers of machinery assist Russia in firing missiles and murdering Ukrainians

European makers of machinery assist Russia in launching missiles and murdering Ukrainians. Through front businesses and parallel imports, machine manufacturers based in the EU provided Russia with machinery valued at millions of euros. 

Coordinate measurement devices and computer numerical control systems are utilized to create parts for war drones and missiles. An estimate from StateWatch think tank states that between July 2021 and July 2023, Russia bought machines worth €1.3 billion.

Russia’s sanctioned UEC-Saturn purchases European CNC equipment

An OSINT examination by the EUObserver identified some European businesses operating in this sector. Ukrainian forces discovered a UEC-Saturn factory engine in the debris of a Russian rocket. Since March 2022, this Russian company has been under EU sanctions. This Russian factory continues to use dual-use European technology in spite of the restrictions.

According to EUobserver, UEC-Saturn received contracts worth over €37 million for the purchase of CNC equipment between 2017 and 2022. In March 2022, the company’s formerly French partner, Safran Aircraft Engines, stopped providing spare parts and technologies.

However, video taken inside the factory discloses more unreported modern machinery. A CNC machine produced by the German company Hermle was spotted at the factory. The German business was accused of using Turkey as a conduit for its trading with Russia.

The public information reveals that a large number of transactions frequently occur in foreign currencies, most notably euros and Swiss francs, but the suppliers’ names remain secret. The sale of this sensitive technology to the UEC-Saturn factory probably involves Swiss machinery.

During this time period, UEC-Saturn paid for more than one-third of its CNC tenders in Swiss Francs, and the majority of bidder names are not publicly accessible. Deals for CNC equipment are still being finalized through semi-public procurement procedures as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

An unidentified company completed a single tender worth up to 2.9 million Swiss Francs in March 2022, after the Russian invasion began.

Russia uses CNC and CMM equipment for Iskander missile production

About 70 percent of all CNC machinery in Russia is imported, while 80 percent of all machines ending up in the hands of Russia’s military industry.

Russia’s 4-ton nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander missiles are made using CNC and CMM equipment. Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has been shooting Iskander missiles toward Ukrainian cities.

In latest attacks, the Russian terror troops fired Iskander missiles at Kyiv on the evening of March 21, resulting in casualties and destruction. A day before a Russian rocket hit Kharkiv, killing at least 5 civilians, and injuring 7.

Votkinsk plant assembles Iskander missiles

The Votkinsk Machine Building Plant, located in the remote Udmurt Republic of Russia, is the primary plant responsible for assembling the Iskander missiles. The Votkinsk plant uses specialized measuring equipment that was in place before Russia’s full-scale war to make deadly missiles.

The enterprise was the target of EU sanctions at the beginning of Russia’s invasion in 2022, but documents from state procurement and customs show that there was commerce in specialized machinery with the Votkinsk plant.

For the purchase of Western machinery and other sensitive technology, the Russian manufacturer is dependent on a vast network of companies.

Collaboration between Russia’s Impex Craft and Bulgarian 2M Trading

“2M Trading,” a Bulgarian company that partners with Impex Craft, a Moscow-based company that supplies technologies to Russian military facilities, came under suspicion. The owner of both Impex Craft and 2M Trading is Russian native Timofey Matyushin, who leads Technostek Holdings, which collaborates with Russia’s largest state-owned military conglomerate, Rostec.

Impex Craft formally announced that it would buy CNC and CMM machines from the EU-registered company for €1.5 million. According to trade records on its website, 2M Trading supplied Russia with important measurement equipment from European firms like Wenzel, Mahr, or Coord3.

Impex Craft was also referred to by Wenzel owner Heike Wenzel as their “official partner” in Russia in 2021. Impex Craft provides its Western-sourced machinery to military manufacturers that have received international approval. The company supplied Russian manufacturers that produced weapons, missiles, and mobile rocket launchers with CNC and CMM technology.

Impex Craft has completed transactions totaling more than €660,000 with JSC Tactical Missiles Corporation, the parent firm of the majority of Russia’s primary missile manufacturers that target Ukraine. The Votkinsk factory granted Impex Craft a contract in 2023 to supply US-made Micro-Vu Vertex 341 CMM equipment as part of the factory’s modernization project.

Russia unleashed 7,400 missiles at Ukraine in 2022–2023

Missiles are a primary weapon in Russia’s assault against the people of Ukraine; the country also launches them at energy facilities and residential buildings. Russia fired 3,900 drones and approximately 7,400 missiles at Ukraine in 2022–2023.

The European Commission lists CMMs as “dual-use” commodities that require specific authorization for export to Russia. However, the determination of what constitutes a dual-use component rests with the EU member states. It leaves loopholes that Russia uses.

The EU authorities are actively working to prevent the transfer of “dual-use” technology to Russia’s military industry. Exporters and EU member states have a duty to uphold export regulations related to dual-use equipment. Monitoring businesses that re-export prohibited items and engage in trade with nations found to be assisting Russia in evading sanctions is also crucial.

Despite this, the EU officials acknowledged that all efforts were “insufficient,” suggesting that it might be necessary to completely halt the export of sensitive technology to problematic third parties.

Experts from Ukraine draw attention to the failure of European authorities to halt the supply of advanced machinery to Russia’s armed forces. Finding ways to get around sanctions is easier for the Russians than figuring out who the manufacturers are that are giving Russia sensitive technology. 

Read also: Keysight and MPI technologies find their way to Russia despite sanctions

How to keep European machinery out of the hands of the Russian army

Adding corporate responsibility to European machinery producers could help prevent their goods from reaching the Russian regime and being used in their military manufacturing to fuel their wars in Ukraine.

The EU’s recently enacted legislation regarding the duty of vigilance may be helpful in this regard.

Read more: Russian war: the duty of vigilance of European companies regarding sanctions

Companies in the defense industry that produce items for weapon manufacturing or maintenance have to adhere to high corporate responsibility. Especially if it has already been revealed that their technology and parts have already been purchased by sham firms supplying Putin’s belligerent regime, which is waging an aggressive war in Ukraine, killing thousands of innocent civilians.

However, European governments have a duty to prevent the supply of their countries’ products to criminal regimes. The likelihood of evading sanctions decreased with the implementation of the most recent sanctions packages in December 2023 and February 2024. However, it’s still insufficient.

Companies that provide Russians with goods that could be used for military purposes ought to be held accountable. Sanctions should be more strictly enforced, and modern technology and machinery sales should be subject to inspection.

After all, only strict implementation of the sanctions and the dismantling of Moscow’s attempts to get around them can ensure that the Russian economy is under enough pressure to force it to end its war against Ukraine and stop producing weapons.

The absence of sanctions enforcement will significantly reduce the effectiveness of military assistance to Ukraine. Furthermore, continuing Russia’s weapons production will push the conflict closer to EU borders and incite further action from the Kremlin, perhaps against NATO and European nations.

Russian missiles built with the aid of European technologies have the ability to target cities within the European Union if Russia launches a war against European nations, amid reports that the Kremlin has been planning for it.

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