US busts network providing technology to Russian military

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a series of criminal charges and sanctions related to a complicated plan to procure military technology from U.S. manufacturers and illegally supply it to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Some of the equipment was recovered from battlefields in Ukraine, the Justice Ministry said, and other nuclear proliferation technology was intercepted in Latvia before it could be shipped to Russia.

The Justice Department has indicted nearly a dozen people in separate cases in New York and Connecticut, including Russian nationals, accused of buying sensitive military technology from US companies and laundering tens of millions of dollars for wealthy Russian businessmen; Latvians accused of conspiring to smuggle equipment into Russia and oil brokers for Venezuela accused of working on illegal deals for a Venezuelan state oil company.

“As I have said, our investigators and prosecutors will work tirelessly to identify, locate and bring to justice those whose illegal actions undermine the rule of law and allow the Russian regime to continue its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

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Five of the defendants charged in New York are Russian citizens, two have been arrested. Two others are oil brokers for Venezuela.

All four defendants in the Connecticut case – three Latvians and one Ukrainian – were arrested months ago at the request of US authorities.

They are accused of smuggling a Connecticut-made jig grinder, a high-precision grinder, into Russia. A permit is required to export or re-export the equipment to Russia.

The criminal charges add to the Biden administration’s latest round of sanctions against Russia.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Wednesday announced sanctions against one of the Justice Department’s indicted men, Yury Orekhov and two of his firms, Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH and Opus Energy Trading LLC, for sourcing advanced semiconductors and microprocessors that used in designates fighter aircraft and ballistic and hypersonic missile systems, among other military applications.

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Orekhov and the companies eventually shipped the materials to Russian end users, including companies designated by various federal agencies, in violation of US export controls. According to prosecutors, Orekhov was arrested in Germany. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak for him.

The Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control worked closely to identify the Russian network.

In addition to sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the US has frozen central bank funds and imposed aggressive export controls.

Recent efforts are aimed at preventing Russia from procuring military technology.

Deputy Finance Minister Wally Adeyemo said in a statement on Wednesday that Russia has increasingly struggled to get the technologies it needs to sustain the war, “thanks to unprecedented sanctions and export controls imposed by our broad coalition of partners and allies became”.

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“We know these efforts have a direct impact on the battlefield,” he said, “as Russia’s desperation has led them to turn to substandard suppliers and obsolete equipment.”

Information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, presented to the Ministry of Finance on Friday, said Russia has lost more than 6,000 pieces of equipment since the war began in late February and is turning to Iran and North Korea for supplies.

Russia relies on foreign manufacturing machinery and ongoing banking sanctions have undermined the Kremlin’s ability to obtain funding to import military equipment, the ODNI said.


This version of the story corrects that 11 people were charged, not nine, as a total of oil brokers are included.


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