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5 Jun 2023

Yuko Seki,
Shota Fujii, Nikkei

Russia reimports arms parts from Myanmar & India allegedly to improve weapons to be used in Ukraine

Russia 'buying back' arms parts exported to Myanmar and India, 5 June 2023

Russia is suspected of buying back military supplies previously shipped to Myanmar and India, according to a Nikkei analysis of customs clearance data.

The survey found records of Russian repurchases of parts for tanks and missiles that had been exported to Myanmar and India. Russia may be reimporting the components to improve older weapons destined for use in Ukraine, relying on help from countries with which it has long-standing military ties.

The U.S., European nations and Japan have banned exports of goods with potential military use to Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

Nikkei analyzed customs clearance data on shipments to Russia made available by ImportGenius, an American research specialist, Exim Trade Data of India and other sources, examining records on Russia's imports of parts for weapons such as tanks and missiles.

UralVagonZavod, which manufactures tanks for the Russian military, for example, imported military products from the Myanmar army for $24 million on Dec. 9, 2022. The components were registered as having been made by UralVagonZavod.

The harmonized system (HS) codes for the reimported goods suggest the company repurchased 6,775 sighting telescopes and 200 cameras for installation in tanks. They are "probably optical devices to measure distance to targets and zero in on them," said Nobuyuki Akatani, a retired senior officer from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force who was involved in developing tanks...

Nikkei asked UralVagonZavod, the Russian government and the Defense Ministry of Myanmar's military regime to provide details on the Russian company's repurchase of military products, but received no replies as of publication...

Other analysts agree: "For a warranty return, this would, as far as I know, be an unusual quantity," said Jakub Janovsky of Oryx, a Dutch defense intelligence analysis website.

The Russian NPK KBM, the Russian initials for the Machine-Building Design Bureau, which is tasked with missile production, purchased a total of six components for night-vision sight for ground-to-air missiles for $150,000 from the Indian Ministry of Defense in August and November 2022. All of the parts, which are needed to ensure the missiles can perform at night and in low light, were manufactured by the KBM, which exported the same type of parts to India in February 2013...

The Group of Seven leaders, at their summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last month asked other countries to end military support for Russia. But "it is difficult to gain cooperation from countries that rely on Russian-made weapons," said Nobumasa Akiyama, a professor who studies arms control at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo...