Russian-made military drones containing British components are being used by pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine and can now be used to target UK soldiers deployed there in the event of an invasion of Moscow, I to learn.
Arms experts said an analysis of Russian-made surveillance planes intercepted over Ukraine showed they were made with electronics and mechanical parts originating from Western countries, including the United Kingdom, which are lined up to oppose the Kremlin’s increasingly aggressive strategy toward Kiev.
It is likely that this equipment will be used against Ukraine in the event of a conflict with Russia in the coming days or weeks. Former military commanders said I They worry that drones could be used against British forces sent to advise Ukraine as they prepare for a possible invasion.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British Army, said the outcome was “entirely possible”. The former Chief of the General Staff added: “Drones have become a reality in the airspace and on the battlefield.”
When asked if he thought 100 British troops in Ukraine could be targeted by Russian planes, Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, said “they certainly could be” if they were operating near the front line.
He called for “tightening of export regulations and control of exports to Russia of any kind that might have a military advantage.”
The government said I It intends to clamp down on such sales with new export rules, in clear acknowledgment of existing loopholes
Britain is one of several countries, including the United States, that in recent weeks has supplied Ukraine with advanced weapons designed to deter a Russian attack. London sent a shipment of advanced anti-tank missiles to Kiev earlier this month.
But the evidence suggests that Russian defense manufacturers — responsible for largely modernizing President Vladimir Putin’s military machine in recent years — have managed to circumvent export rules to acquire Western components to allow them to produce military equipment likely to be used against Ukraine in the event of a conflict.
Research conducted by specialists in London has found that six drones shot down in eastern Ukraine as recently as April 2020 contain advanced parts sourced from the West from Russian defense manufacturers.
According to government figures, Britain officially exports only trace amounts of defense or security equipment to Russia. Since 2015, only £1.5 million licenses have been approved, the vast majority of which are ammunition for sport or hunting.
But the evidence suggests that advanced materials of importance and use for the Russian military were making their way into the Russian war machine via other routes.
The study by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), funded by the European Union and the German government, found that a Russian reconnaissance drone, shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2017, contained specialized electronics manufactured by Plymouth-based Silicon Sensing Systems. Ltd.
There is no indication of any wrongdoing by the company. Her Russian customer, a civilian electronics distributor in Moscow, told her that the “end user” was a company serving “educational institutions”. Because the equipment being sold did not appear on any British government lists of controlled goods, the company did not request an export license for the component and the sale was made before new controls were imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Silicon Sensing Systems has not responded to requests from I to comment. But in correspondence with CAR, the company said that none of the items it provided to its Russian customer exceeded the “performance standards” that would have required a UK export license, and that it was given no indication that its products were intended for the defense manufacturer.
Automotive Research Center investigators found that rather than being destined for use in an educational setting, the final destination of the company component was in fact a supplier of air surveillance systems to the Russian Ministry of Defense. In 2017, the company, PO KSI, was named in sanctions by Washington for allegedly supporting malicious cyber operations by Russian military intelligence.
The study found that an identical Russian-made drone of the type with a British-made component was found that crashed in Lithuania in 2016. CAR said that this drone contained an updated version of the silicon sensor systems component, but again the part did not meet The threshold for requesting an export license.
A separate report by Lithuanian authorities found that the drone was on a surveillance mission to Poland and was of the type known to be used by Moscow’s security services.
How the once dilapidated Russian army is now a deadly force
Russia’s modern, well-armed and deadly armed forces are the result of a two-decade push by Vladimir Putin to place a new era of military power at the heart of Moscow’s foreign policy.
When he came to power in 2000, he inherited a nuclear-armed but shrinking post-Soviet army that relied on conscripts and communist-era equipment.
The Kremlin’s ability in 2022 to deploy an advanced combat force equipped with the latest technology, and in some cases significantly ahead of Western arms, comes on the heels of massive spending to develop the military. The country spends more on defense as a share of GDP than the United States.
Thus, Moscow can deploy hypersonic missiles allegedly capable of deploying nuclear weapons at 20 times the speed of sound, and has tanks waiting on Ukraine’s border that are among the best aircraft in the world, complete with a state-of-the-art night. Fight the visual system.
But at the same time, the Russian system has weaknesses. For all its strength in certain sectors, analysts say it lacks the domestic high-tech civilian manufacturing capacity that it has grown in other countries. As a result, Russia’s military-industrial sector has been forced to source technology from abroad, which has led to challenges with export rules and sanctions.
The CAR study, which examined Russian-made drones that either crashed or were shot down between 2015 and 2020, found evidence of components from countries including Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, America and the Czech Republic.
Components believed to have been supplied by British companies included specialized spark plugs and a shipment of electronics delivered in 2020 to a Russian drone maker whose products include the Kremlin’s first armed long-endurance drone, or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).
“Our analysis and tracing efforts reveal that independent Russian electronics and components distributors obtained … foreign technology on behalf of sanctioned Russian defense and security entities,” the report said.
A British defense source said I The drones shot down by Ukrainian forces formed part of the known Russian drone fleet and are likely to be used in the event of an invasion. “If things go wrong, the Russians will throw everything they have,” the source said. “And that will certainly include their drone surveillance capabilities.”
In both Germany and the United States, authorities have investigated allegations that Russian defense companies have deployed similar tactics to obtain advanced materials for night vision equipment, machine tools and semiconductors.
CAR said there was evidence that Russia was able to take advantage of a “general lack of clarity” about exporters’ responsibility to determine “end-use” and “end-user” components, and the rules regarding “dual-use” technology could be used in both civilian and military applications. .
Tell Mike Lewis, Head of Investigations for the Central African Republic IExport control regimes in the United Kingdom and the European Union face the same challenges in preventing sophisticated commercial technology from reaching military manufacturers in embargoed destinations such as the Russian Federation.
“Currently, exporters are not obligated to carry out even basic due diligence towards their customers in such destinations. They simply have to wait until they are told by their government – or less commonly, their customers – that their products are for military purposes. There is no organized system for notifying exporters that Their products are found in military systems.”
Activists said there was particular concern in Britain about the UK’s ability to verify where products licensed for export had come from.
Dr Samuel Pirlo Freeman, Research Coordinator for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: “Overall, the UK makes no attempt to pursue the final destination and use of licensed equipment, in most cases. The potential for diversion of military and dual-use equipment provided by the UK is therefore the To unauthorized destinations is great.”
Former Conservative Trade Secretary Marc Garnier, chair of the Arms Export Controls Committee (CAEC), said on Friday the findings were “extremely concerning” and that it was “critically important” Britain to prevent key technology from reaching its opponents.
Garnier said that the adequacy of UK end-use controls and verification procedures was a key part of parliamentary scrutiny.
Tell I: “Reports that British-made goods have been used in eastern Ukraine are of deep concern. It is critical that we prevent the diversion of UK exports for hostile purposes… It also illustrates the need for an export control system that is able to adapt quickly to global changes, not only in terms of demand for new licenses but also those already granted.”
Labor MP Lloyd Russell Moyle, who sits at the CAEC, said he would ask the commission to investigate whether the findings mean the current system is powerful enough to thwart Moscow’s efforts to acquire British and Western technology.
Tell I: “An essential part of any arms control regime that people who seek to harm us or our allies cannot obtain the resources or technology that we or our allies produce. If these technologies end up in the hands of the adversary, we should ask very serious questions.”
The Department for International Trade, which oversees defense exports, said the government was looking to expand the definition of “military end use” to better deal with scenarios in which the sale of UK-made components could lead to threats to “national security, international peace and human rights”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry said: “The UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world.”