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22 Jun 2023

Carl Schreck,
Kubat Kasymbekov,
Manas Qaiyrtaiuly,
Riin Aljas,
Kubatbek Aibashov,
Kyrylo Ovsyaniy, RFE/RL

Kyrgyz & Kazakh cos. export sanctioned dual-use goods to Russian firms linked to Kremlin war machine amid Western efforts to halt tech flow through Central Asia, new investigation shows


Kyrgyz, Kazakh companies send Western tech to firms linked to Kremlin war machine, 22 June 2023

Kyrgyz and Kazakh companies have exported sanctioned dual-use technology to Russian suppliers of the Kremlin's war machine amid Western efforts to stymie such transfers through the Central Asian nations, an investigation by RFE/RL has found.

In response to the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States and the European Union have tightened controls on exports to Russia of technology that can be used both for civilian and military purposes.

But Moscow has used a supply network within countries not bound by these sanctions - including Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - to keep Western technology flowing into Russia. Both countries are members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union.

Russian imports of a range of dual-use goods from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have skyrocketed since the start of the war, including electronics produced by Western technology giants such as U.S. firms Texas Instruments and Analog Devices, whose components have been recovered from Russian weapons operating in Ukraine.

The issue has raised the specter of so-called secondary sanctions targeting the two Central Asian countries in an effort to halt this technology flow, with both U.S. and EU officials tasked with enforcing sanctions raising the issue during official visits to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in recent months...

In its investigation, RFE/RL found that Russian firms receiving Kazakh and Kyrgyz exports of dual-use technology have previously supplied electronics to the Russian defense industry, including state entities hit by Western or Ukrainian sanctions in response to Russian aggression.

Reporters from RFE/RL's Kazakh and Kyrgyz Services - together with Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service - analyzed customs, procurement, and corporate records for companies involved in these dual-use transfers, as well as Ukrainian intelligence data on Western electronics recovered in Russian weapons...

A top trading partner of the Russian firm, customs records show, has been a Kyrgyz firm that was founded less than a month after the February 2022 invasion that exports advanced electronics to Russia.

In other cases, established Russian electronics suppliers have used Kazakh affiliates to export dual-use electronics to themselves following the invasion.

One of the Russian firms, a large electronics company called ITC, has supplied technology to multiple Russian defense-industry entities sanctioned by the United States -- and itself was hit by Ukrainian sanctions last month. Customs records show ITC used an affiliated Latvian-based logistics firm to send dual-use technology via a Kazakh company that ITC founded several years earlier.

In many cases, dual-use goods that Kyrgyz and Kazakh firms send to Russia from the United States or Europe are delivered directly to Russian clients without going through Central Asia, multiple industry sources told RFE/RL...