Chinese firm sends large consignment of ammo to Russian munitions factory

Chinese firm sends large consignment of ammo to Russian munitions factory

On two separate occasions last year, rail cars carrying thousands of kilograms of smokeless powder – collectively enough propellant to make at least 80 million rounds of ammunition – thundered across the China-Russia border in the remote city of Zabaykalsk .

The powder was shipped by Poly Technologies, a state-owned Chinese company controlled by the United States before this imposed Sanctions Global sales of missile technology and providing aid to Iran. Its destination was the Barnaul Cartridge Plant, an ammunition factory in central Russia that had a history of supplying to the Russian government.

These were previously unreported shipments that were identified import geniusThe US-based trade data aggregator raises new questions about China’s role in supporting Russia fighting to annex Ukrainian territory. US officials have expressed concern that China could be sending Russia products that would aid its war effort – known as “lethal aid” – although they have not explicitly said that China has sent such shipments. Have done

Speaking from Beijing on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that China had assured the United States that it was not providing lethal aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, and that the US government “has yet to see anything” to contradict this.

“But we are concerned about private companies in China that can provide assistance,” Mr. Blinken said.

Some experts said that the shipment that Poly Technologies had made to the Barnaul cartridge plant since the invasion, worth about $2 million according to customs records, was such a lethal aid. According to customs records, Poly Technologies intended its shipments to be used in ammunition fired by Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles and sniper rifles.

William George, research director at Import Genius, said Poly Technologies “may be in the realm of malign aid to Russia,” but the implications of the shipment were clear.

Mr. George said, “When large quantities of gunpowder are sent to a country at war for the manufacture of military cartridges, it is unreasonable to imagine that the finished product will not be used to lethal effect on the battlefield.”

“It’s lethal support,” said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “The question is, how impactful and massive is it?”

Mr Gubuev said China has generally avoided any actions that would “clearly, forcefully” cross the red lines the US government detailed at the start of the war. What would be a violation of Western sanctions. Since Poly Technologies has a history of shipments to the Barnaul plant prior to the war, China may view those shipments as part of regular trade flows.

“Overall, China tries to stick to those red lines,” he said. “Having said that, we do see some contracts and transactions going on.”

Poly Technologies China is a subsidiary of Poly Group Corporation, which is owned by the Chinese government. Previous reports by wall street journal And CNN Documented shipments of navigation equipment and helicopter parts from Poly Technologies to Russian state-backed firms.

The recipient of the powder shipment, the Barnaul Cartridge Plant, is privately owned. But Russian procurement records provided to The New York Times by C4ADS, a Washington, D.C.-based global security nonprofit, show the company had multiple contracts with the Russian government and army divisions, including the Russian Defense Ministry, over the past decade.

Barnaul Cartridge Plant was Added to list of companies Approved by the EU in December. open source information It is learned that the plant may have served as a training camp associated with the Wagner Group, a private Russian military force with ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

There is no direct link between these particular shipments of smokeless powder and the Ukrainian battlefield, and in customs paperwork Poly Technologies describes the powder as “for the assembly of foreign-style hunting cartridges.”

But Brian Carlson, a China-Russia expert and head of the think tank’s global security team at the Center for Security Studies, said that although such cartridges could be used for hunting, it is rare. “These are military cartridges,” he said.

Most modern firearms and other weapons used by soldiers and civilians rely on smokeless powder to propel a bullet to its target. When the trigger is pulled, a firing pin strikes the rear of the ammunition cartridge, igniting the powder, which burns very rapidly and pushes the bullet into the firearm’s barrel.

This type of powder is also used by militaries as a propellant for mortar ammunition, to launch explosive-filled projectiles ranging in weight from four pounds to 30 pounds or more.

Poly Technologies and Barnaul Cartridge Plant did not respond to requests for comment.

The war in Ukraine, now in its 17th month, has escalated in recent weeks. The ability of both armies to obtain munitions and equipment became an important factor that could affect the outcome of the war.

Following the invasion, Western countries embargoed their trade with Russia, depriving the country of military goods as well as supplies that nourish their economy and help the government generate revenue. .

But countries such as China, India, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey have stepped up to provide Russia with goods ranging from simple products like smartphones and cars to aircraft parts and ammunition.

Both state-owned and private Chinese companies have sold products to Russia that could potentially be used by civilians or the military – including drones, semiconductors. hunting rifles, navigation equipment and airplane parts.

China has remained officially non-involved in the war. Officials there argue that Beijing is a neutral party and peacemaker. However, in practice, China has become an important diplomatic, economic and security partner for Russia, following the announcement of a “no borders” partnership early last year.

In a speech in april In Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen called the partnership a “worrying sign” that China is not serious about ending the war. And he warned that the consequences for China of providing material aid to Russia or helping it evade sanctions “would be severe.”

In recent months, US officials have privately contacted Chinese financial institutions directly to discuss sanctions and the risks of facilitating evasion or circumvention of export controls.

“Chinese companies have options to choose from,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in an interview. fox business tv earlier this month. “They can provide Russia with material support for their military and continue to trade with an economy that probably represents $1.5 trillion and is getting smaller, or you can continue to trade with the rest of the world.” can keep.”

Poly Technologies is one of China’s largest arms exporters. It manufactures equipment including weapons, personal protective gear, explosives and missile systems for police and military forces. It has been criticized in previous decades for sending small arms to Zimbabwe. It has sent arms consignments to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nigeria over the years, according to records accessed through Sayari Graph, a mapping tool for corporate ownership and commercial ties.

Poly Technologies’ parent company has dozens of subsidiaries engaged in industries such as real estate and film production, including operations One of the largest auction houses in the world,

Barnaul products have been common on American shelves in recent years, including ammunition for military-style rifles, hunting rifles, and American handguns. The goods came to the US through several importers, including MKS Supply, LLC, a wholesale ammunition distributor in Dayton, Ohio.

According to an official of MKS Supply, the company stopped working with the Barnaul Cartridge Plant early last year following the US government’s embargo on the import of Russian ammunition.

Edward Wong Contributed reporting from Beijing.

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