Kremlin Blasts Arrests Of Two Russian Nationals Accused Of Stealing Sensitive US Military Tech
On Friday the Kremlin angrily condemned the arrests of two Russians apprehended this week while they were traveling in Europe, including the son of a high level official, after the US Department of Justine named five Russian nationals wanted for "global sanctions evasion and money laundering schemes". Crucially they've been named as leading an international conspiracy to obtain semiconductors, radars and satellites used in advanced US military systems in order to provide them to Russia's defense sector.
Artyom Uss, who is son of the wealthy governor of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk and a Kremlin "insider", was arrested by Italian agents at Milan's Malpensa Airport this week upon US request, while Yury Orekhov was detained Monday in Germany. Both now face extradition proceedings.
"We are categorically against this and we condemn the practice of these kinds of arrests of Russian citizens," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a Friday press briefing, pledging Moscow will do "everything possible" to defend them and seek their return. "Our diplomatic missions will naturally take part in protecting the interests of this Russian citizen," Peskov added.
The US allegations against the Russian nationals read like a James Bond villain character plot. The US says they stole sensitive military technology secrets and gave them to Russian defense companies. Some of these technologies even showed up in Russian equipment and weapons systems on the Ukrainian battlefield, US officials say.
"Some of the same electronic components obtained through the criminal scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine," DOJ prosecutors said.
According to more, detailed in NBC:
Yury Orekhov and Artem Uss are accused of using false documents and a front company to purchase electronics like advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems and smart munitions.
The men sent the items to sanctioned Russian companies that serve the defense sector, according to federal prosecutors.
Investigations into Uss and Orekhov's activities stretch back years before the current war in Ukraine, and even involve advanced technology related to the Air Force's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
NBC News: Federal prosecutors say sensitive U.S. military technology has been found in Russian weapons systems recovered in Ukraine.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) October 19, 2022
They've charged a group of Russians with illegally purchasing the technology through a network of shell companies and fake documentation.
The lengthy Justice Dept. narrative of what the pair are alleged to have been involved in reads like a Hollywood script:
In 2019, Orekhov travelled to the United States to source parts used in the Russian-made Sukhoi fighter aircraft and the American-made F-22 Raptor stealth fighter aircraft. Orekhov and Uss also used NDA GmbH as a front to smuggle hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela to Russian and Chinese purchasers, including a Russian aluminum company controlled by a sanctioned oligarch and the world’s largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate based in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.
Serrano Ponce and Soto brokered deals worth millions of dollars between PDVSA and NDA GmbH, which were routed through a complex group of shell companies and bank accounts to disguise the transactions.
The men face a maximum of 30 years in prison each if convicted. The investigation was undertaken by a US special sanctions evasion and export control task force called "KleptoCapture".
According to more from DOJ prosecutors:
Using NDA GmbH as a front company, Orekhov and Kuzurgasheva sourced and purchased sensitive military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers, including advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, radar, satellites and other space-based military applications. These items were shipped to Russian end users, including sanctioned companies controlled by Telegin and Tulyakov, such as Radioavtomatika, Radioexport and Abtronics, that serviced Russia’s defense sector. Some of the same electronic components obtained through the criminal scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Task Force KleptoCapture Director Adams said in the wake of the arrests by European law enforcement, "Webs of shell companies, cryptocurrency and an international network of fraudsters failed to shield Orekhov and his cronies from apprehension by U.S. law enforcement."
It should be noted, however, that such high profile and publicized arrests of Russian nationals will likely make the desired return of US citizens holed up in Russian jails all the more difficult. Currently there's been a media spotlight on WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, and ramped up diplomatic efforts to get them home. Despite the Biden administration recently getting more involved, there's been little reported progress in securing their return.