Washington (AFP) – The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a round of criminal charges and sanctions related to a complex scheme to illegally purchase military technologies from US manufacturers and supply them to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The Justice Ministry said some equipment was recovered on the battlefields in Ukraine, and other nuclear proliferation technologies were intercepted in Latvia before being shipped to Russia.
The Department of Justice indicted nearly a dozen people in separate cases in New York and Connecticut, including Russian citizens accused of buying sensitive military technologies from American companies and laundering tens of millions of dollars for wealthy Russian businessmen; Latvians were accused of conspiring to smuggle equipment to Russian oil brokers and brokers to Venezuela accused of working on illicit deals for a state-owned Venezuelan oil company.
“As I have said, investigators and prosecutors will make relentless efforts to locate, locate and prosecute those whose unlawful actions undermine the rule of law and enable the Russian regime to continue its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Prosecutor Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Five of the accused in New York are Russian nationals, and two have been arrested. Another oil brokers for Venezuela.
The 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 conspiring to smuggle a high-precision grinding machine manufactured in Connecticut to Russia. Equipment requires a license to export or re-export to Russia.
The criminal charges complement the Biden administration’s latest round of sanctions targeting Russia.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against one of the men charged by the Department of Justice for appointing Yuri Orekhov and two of his companies, Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH and Opus Energy Trading LLC, for their purchase of advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in aircraft. Fighter, ballistic missile systems, and hypersonic missiles among other military uses.
Orekhov and the companies eventually sent the materials to Russian end users, including companies designated by various federal agencies, in violation of US export controls. Prosecutors say Orekhov was arrested in Germany. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
The Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control worked in coordination to identify the Russian network.
Besides sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the United States has frozen the funds of the Russian Central Bank and imposed severe export restrictions.
The latest effort is devoted to preventing Russia from buying military technologies.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Ademo said in a statement on Wednesday that Russia is increasingly struggling to acquire the technologies it needs to continue the war “thanks to unprecedented sanctions and export controls imposed by our broad coalition of partners and allies.”
“We know that these efforts have a direct impact on the battlefield, where Russia’s desperation has turned them into shoddy suppliers and outdated equipment,” he said.
Information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, presented Friday at the Treasury, said Russia has lost more than 6,000 pieces of equipment since the start of the war in late February and is heading to Iran and North Korea for supplies.
The bureau said Russia relies on foreign production machinery and that ongoing banking sanctions have undermined the Kremlin’s ability to obtain financing to import military equipment.
This version of the story corrects that 11 people, not nine, were charged since the total includes oil brokers.
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