According to a Financial Times investigation, despite the economic sanctions against Moscow, a Russian spy network obtained vital technologies from EU firms to support Putin’s war on Ukraine.
Despite anti-Russia sanctions put in place in March 2022 for its war against Ukraine, the “Serniya network,” which the US Department of Justice claims was engaged in “highly sensitive and classified procurement movements” on behalf of Russia’s FSB spy agency, was able to acquire machine tools from Germany and Finland.
Serniya network is linked to FSB and Russian defense ministry
The scheme’s other customers include Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy company in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Russian defense ministry, the defense corporation Rostec, and the Foreign Intelligence Service, also known as the SVR.
The Financial Times discovered that since Russia started its war against Ukraine, a Moscow-registered firm controlled by the same person who is in charge of a Serniya network entity that the US claims are “engaged in proliferation activities at the direction of Russian intelligence services” has continued to purchase goods from businesses in the EU, spending $900,000 on components like microchips.
Treydtuls purchased microchips and technology linked to Russia’s war
Trading House Treydtuls, registered in Moscow, has purchased $900,000 worth of supplies since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, including microchips and technological items, mainly from the EU, according to business documents, import declarations, and assessments.
Serial (Russia), Photon Pro LLP (UK), Majory LLP (UK), and Robin Trade (Russia) are among the businesses connected to providing sensitive technology to Russia despite sanctions. They are all linked to “Serniya Engineering.”
The owner of “Serial” is Yevgeniy Grinin, a Russian national who is on the FBI wanted list. He is also one of the two “Photon Pro” directors.
Another Russian national, close to the regime, Andrey Zakharov, stands in the management of two companies – “Photon Pro” and “Majory”.
At the same time, a Russian national, Alexey Zibylov, owns “Robin Trade” and “Trading House Treydtuls”, which trade with the companies mentioned above.
Zibyrov, who has not been identified or accused by the US authorities, is seen as a person “of interest” with his FSB connections, according to one FT’s source in the West.
It is thought that “Trading House Treydtuls” conducted business with firms in the EU that offer machine tools and firms in Singapore that sell US-made microchips.
Russian companies acquired microchips from the EU and Singapore
According to publicly available customs records and import data provided to the Financial Times, Robin Trade imported $12.2 million worth of goods into Russia until April 2022, when its sales fell by 90% due to the enactment of sanctions.
In response to the penalties, some network members stopped buying, but Treydtuls started importing machine tools from a German company. According to customs records, Treydtuls imported 22 tonnes of machinery from Germany to Russia by the end of 2022, with a claimed value of $554,000.
According to customs records, Treydtuls purchased $253,000 of integrated circuit panels from a small business in Singapore. The products were produced by the German firm IC-Haus and the US semiconductor firms Texas Instruments, Altera, and Analog Devices.
All of these businesses have stopped exporting to Russia, making it necessary for the Russian government and military forces to import cutting-edge electronics from other nations.
Read also: Russia acquires Western technology for war via Armenia, bypassing sanctions
Russian war machine needs Western cutting-edge electronics
To sustain its military-industrial complex, Russia must keep access to cutting-edge electronics and machinery.
In August 2020, one company in the procurement network received a renewal of its license from the FSB, allowing it to “carry out work related to the use of information constituting a state secret up to the top-secret level,” according to emails intercepted by US authorities and included in the DoJ indictment.
Five Russian nationals connected to Serniya were accused of conspiring to buy military-grade and dual-use technologies for Russian defense firms by the DofJ in December.
Link with Konoshchenok indicted by the US
Vadim Konoshchenok was one of them; according to the US indictment, he was detained by Estonian border guards after attempting to enter Russia with US-made electronics, microchips, and ammo. He is suspected of being an FSB colonel.
The US claimed that some of the network’s trafficking operations comprised technology that might be used to create hypersonic weapons.
While Treydtuls has so far evaded Western sanctions, there are more concerns about how it has been permitted to continue purchasing goods from within the EU, given that it has numerous connections to the indicted FSB network that were evident through trading relationships before Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.
Read also: How Russia works around sanctions to procure microchips for missiles