China sending Drones to Russia amid Russia-Ukraine War

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China has supplied Moscow with more than $12 million in drones, demonstrating the two countries growing cooperation despite US threats to take action against Chinese companies, according to the New York Times.

According to the report, the shipments included products from DJI, a well-known global manufacturer of drones, as well as products from various smaller companies, often via small middlemen and exporters. According to the study, which cites official Russian customs data from a third-party data provider, US precautions were put in place after the Russian incursion failed to prevent UAV exports.

Chinese Drones made up of American Parts?

It is also difficult to determine whether Chinese products contain US components, which could violate US export regulations. This is primarily because of complex sales channels and ambiguous product descriptions in export data. Furthermore, formal purchases may only be a small portion of a much larger flow of technologies through unofficial channels and neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Belarus.

China-made Mugin-5 drone downed in eastern Ukraine

As a result, Russia continues to acquire more drones, which are then deployed to the front lines of its conflict with Ukraine. China has grown in importance as a military, diplomatic, and economic ally to Russia’s war effort. Despite recent US attempts to undermine some Chinese companies through export bans, the world remains heavily reliant on China’s factories and clusters of specialized component manufacturers. As a result, China’s global electronics supply chain dominance has made it more difficult for the US to abandon Russia in the absence of critical technology and financing.

Chinese drones in Russia

According to The New York Times, 70 Chinese exporters have sold 26 different types of Chinese drones to Russia since the invasion. Autel, a Chinese drone manufacturer, was the second best-selling brand; exporters sold approximately $2 million in drones, with the most recent batch delivered in February 2023.

Autel is represented by subsidiaries in the United States, Germany, and Italy. DJI, for its part, previously stated that it had ceased all operations and shipments to Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict and that it has “extensive protocols” in place to ensure that it does not violate US sanctions. With both sides shooting down drones with increasing efficiency, these consumer UAVs require regular resupply. Ukraine’s soldiers use DJI drones in combat because the country relies on drone donations from organizations and individuals.

For commercial or political reasons, Chinese companies selling UAVs to Russia may use intermediary chains that include up to a dozen different firms. In some cases, shipment descriptions are intentionally ambiguous or understate the total amount of goods shipped.

Xi Jinping visits Moscow, Russia

On March 21, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for diplomatic talks, acting as a mediator and promoting a peace plan to end Russia’s involvement in Ukraine’s conflict. The US has criticized the proposal, calling it a biased attempt to protect the Kremlin leader during his country’s ongoing invasion.

In a show of mutual support in the Kremlin, Putin backed Xi Jinping’s call for a “peaceful settlement in Ukraine,” implying the possibility of a strengthened anti-Western bulwark globally. Western lawmakers, on the other hand, claimed that China’s offer, which called for a truce and talks but did not mention Moscow withdrawing its troops from Ukrainian territory, was drafted without Kyiv’s assistance.

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