Russia is suspected of buying sighting telescopes, cameras and night-vision sights it previously exported to Myanmar and India, for use on its tanks and missiles.
Nikkei Asia reported this, after analyzing customs clearance data on shipments to Russia made available by an American research specialist ImportGenius, Exim Trade Data of India and other sources. It 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 modernize its nearly 5,000-strong tank fleet.
The U.S., European nations and Japan have banned exports of goods with potential military use to Russia since the latter invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
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. Russia reportedly relied on Western technology to produce optical equipment and now appears to be struggling to procure the necessary components as a result of the trade sanctions.
Reference to "imported under reclamation act" was found in the customs clearance data. UralVagonZavod exported military products to the Myanmar army in 2019; the reference suggests the returned items were defective. Kinichi Nishimura, a military analyst who previously served at Japan's Ministry of Defense told the outlet, "Any defective products should have been replaced when discovered in a full inspection conducted at the time of import."
“For a warranty return, this would, as far as I know, be an unusual quantity," Jakub Janovsky of Oryx, a Dutch defense intelligence analysis website, said.
Russia’s Machine-Building Design Bureau (NPK KBM), 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 India 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 NPK KBM, which exported the same type of parts to India in February 2013.
Russia may have reimported the parts for repairs, but there were no records of the items being sent back to India as of the end of March this year.
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.