26 Jul 2023
Russian buyers are ordering significant amounts of Chinese military equipment, Politico reported.
It has imported more than $100 million in drones from China this year alone, the report said.
China is using loopholes for equipment that can have both civilian and military use, it said.
China has sent Russia enough military equipment to outfit an army, using loopholes in Western sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Politico reported.
Politico, using evidence such as customs records, reported that Chinese manufacturers were delivering significant quantities of equipment to help Russia in its fight against Ukraine.
This includes enough protective gear to equip many of the troops Russia has mobilized for its invasion, as well as drones that can direct artillery fire and drop grenades on Ukrainian forces.
Chinese manufacturers have also sent thermal-optical sights that can target soldiers at night, the report said.
Overall, Russia has imported more than $100 million worth of drones from China since the start of this year, as well as $225 million in ceramics, which can be used in body armor, a 69% increase over 2022, Politico reported.
Chinese companies are exploiting a loophole to send this equipment: The gear is considered nonlethal and seen as dual use, which means it can have civilian as well as military applications.
Related video: Ukraine Admits It Lags Behind Russia in Anti-Drone 'Electronic Warfare' (Newsweek)
This leaves Western authorities with an excuse if they don't want to confront China on the issue, Politico reported.
China has repeatedly denied sending military equipment to Russia since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
But Ukraine said earlier this year that it was finding a growing number of Chinese parts in Russian weapons that it captured, including drones and tanks.
And US intelligence documents obtained by The Washington Post in April showed that China approved the "provision of lethal aid" to Russia earlier this year and planned to send military equipment disguised as civilian equipment.
The US said it had not seen any evidence that China had given Russia weapons or lethal aid.
The custom records obtained by Politico showed Russian buyers declaring orders for hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests and helmets made by a company called Shanghai H Win.
Russia has been struggling with equipment shortages, with mobilized soldiers saying they had to buy their own body armor and a Russian soldier complaining in an intercepted phone call that his unit had no ammunition and were given just one grenade each, to blow themselves up.
The UK Ministry of Defense said in March that Russian soldiers in the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, were likely forced into close-quarters fighting because they didn't have enough artillery ammunition.
And in June, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that his troops didn't have enough equipment, including "high-precision ammunition, communications equipment, aircraft, drones, and so on."
China is officially neutral and has tried to position itself as a prospective peacemaker that can broker a deal. But it has also expanded its dealings with Russia since the invasion began, including through state visits, trade, and more purchases of Russian oil. It also hasn't stopped military exercises with Russia.
Helena Legarda, an expert in Chinese defense and foreign policy at the German think tank Mercator Institute for China Studies, told Politico: "What is very clear is that China, for all its claims that it is a neutral actor, is, in fact, supporting Russia's positions in this war."
Ukraine is also a customer of Chinese weapons, though Politico reported that its imports of many types of Chinese equipment had plummeted this year.