British firms bypass the sanctions and supply dual-use goods for Russian Army

According to data analysis conducted by Sky News, British companies are exporting significant amounts of equipment and machinery, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, ending up in Russia. This activity undermines the official sanctions regime and strengthens Vladimir Putin’s military capabilities.

The exported items, including drone equipment, optics and heavy machinery, are being sent to countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Uzbekistan, before being redirected to Russia.

Despite a notable decrease in goods flowing directly to Russia following trade sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine two years ago, a considerable quantity of sensitive “dual use” British goods continues to reach Moscow.

This analysis highlights the extent of Britain’s involvement in a clandestine economy that supports Russia’s military by providing parts and hardware for weaponry used against Ukraine. Since the beginning of an unprovoked war against Ukraine and the subsequent imposition of sanctions, exports of British goods to Russia itself have plummeted by 74%. The majority of remaining exports to Russia comprise food, medical products, or other humanitarian items, while exports of heavy machinery, electrical equipment, and cars practically had decreased to zero.

These statistics suggest that the sanctions have been remarkably effective, as indicated by the UK government spokesperson, “We have implemented the most severe package of economic sanctions ever imposed on a major economy.”

Nevertheless, a closer analysis of Britain’s official trade data presents an alternative perspective: while UK exports to Russia have declined significantly, exports to a group of Russia’s former Soviet satellite states, from Uzbekistan to Georgia, have surged to an unprecedented quantities.

In particular, British exports to Kyrgyzstan, a small former Soviet satellite state, have experienced a remarkable surge, increasing by over 1,100%. These exports predominantly consist of heavy machinery and vehicles, which are now redirected to Kyrgyzstan due to restrictions on direct exports to Russia.

Robin Brooks, former chief economist of the Institute of International Finance, emphasizes that the phenomenon of redirecting exports through Caucasus and Central Asian states to reach Russia is not exclusive to the UK. Other European nations, especially Germany and Poland, are also engaging in increasing exports of hardware through the aforementioned routes.

Brooks notes, “They’re clearly receiving orders from entities affiliated with Russia, which are operating from within these Central Asian countries.” He emphasizes the possibility of plausible deniability or complicit knowledge, but the exponential rise in export volumes defies any logical explanation based on the economic data of these intermediary countries.

Brooks concludes, “So the only reasonable explanation is: Russia.”

Concerns regarding this practice are not limited to the UK, which is a common knowledge among EU leadership. There’s a notable absence of centralized EU action to address this issue, prompting doubts about the lack of intervention at the EU level.

British officials are arguing that pending efforts to enhance the UK sanctions regime are effective. A spokesperson for the UK government stated, “We recently announced the establishment of the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation to bolster our enforcement of sanctions. Non-compliance with these stringent sanctions carries severe penalties, including hefty fines or criminal prosecution.”

While the focus has been on the surge in exports to Kyrgyzstan, there’s a notable increase in exports to Armenia as well. According to Brooks, Armenia has experienced a significant rise in its exports to Russia, indicating a broader trend across post-Soviet countries.

Even more concerning is the revelation that a large portion of the goods dispatched to these nations includes items deemed “dual purpose,” capable of being modified for military purposes.

Discovered amid the wreckage of Russian weaponry on battlefields of Ukraine, these goods fall within the European Union’s catalog of 45 categories of “common high priority items”. The presence of such items in the aftermath of battles in Ukraine involving Russian forces underscores their potential military significance.

According to the analysis by Sky News, British exports of these dual-use goods to four Caucasus and Central Asian countries—recognized for their documented use in fatal incidents involving Ukrainian civilians, have surged by over 500% since Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The analysis reveals that the dominant category of goods dispatched to these four Caucasus and Central Asian nations is “parts of airplanes, helicopters, or unmanned aircraft” — essentially, components utilized in the production of drones and other aerial units.

British companies have exported £6 million worth of dual-purpose goods to these nations, surpassing their typical export volume to them.

Additionally, UK firms are exporting other items such as data processing machines, aeronautic navigation equipment and radio navigation aids.

Tom Keatinge of the Royal United Services Institute emphasizes the significance of a notable increase in exports to Kyrgyzstan, stating, “It’s absolutely a red flag if you’re producing that kind of equipment… and you’ve got this big spike in exports to Kyrgyzstan”.

He stands for a critical examination of the situation, asking, “You’ve surely got to stop and ask yourself: why is that? Am I indirectly resourcing the Russian military? And clearly you don’t want to be doing that. And indeed, in doing that, you’re probably in breach of sanctions”.

Keatinge highlights the unfortunate reality that when Ukrainian forces examine retrieved remains of Russians drones, cruise missiles, or communication devices, they often find components originating from the EU, UK and the US. Notably, these components are recent exports to Russia, not remnants from previous shipments.

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