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Western parts found in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, says think tank

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LONDON: More than 450 foreign-made components have been found in Russian weapons recovered in Ukraine, evidence that Moscow acquired critical technology from companies in the United States, Europe and Asia in the years before the invasion, according to a new report by Royal United Services Institute defence think tank.

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

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

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

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

“Russian weapons that are critically dependent upon Western electronics have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians,” Jack Watling, a land warfare specialist at RUSI, said.

While many of the foreign components are found in everyday household goods such as microwaves that are not subject to export controls, RUSI said a strengthening of export restrictions and enforcement could make it harder 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 manoeuvre at low altitude to evade radar and can strike targets hundreds of miles away, contained 31 foreign components. The parts were made by companies that included US-based Texas Instruments Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, as well as Cypress Semiconductor, which is now owned by Infineon AG, a German company, the RUSI investigation found.

In another case, a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile, which has been used to strike Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, also had 31 foreign components with parts manufactured by companies including 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 they have stopped selling components to Russia.

Analog Devices said the company closed their business in Russia and instructed distributors to halt shipments to the country.

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

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

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

However, more than 80 Western-manufactured microchips were subject to US export controls since at least 2014 meaning they would have required a licence to be shipped to Russia, RUSI said. The companies exporting the parts had a responsibility to carry out due diligence to ensure they were not being sent to the Russian military or for a military end-use, according to RUSI.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2022


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