Seven accused of smuggling military tech from US to Russia

Seven people, including a suspected Russian secret service agent and two US residents, have been accused of conspiring to smuggle weapons-grade technology into the rogue superstate.

A US federal court in Brooklyn, New York, unsealed the charges against two US residents and five Russian nationals, one of whom is believed to be working for the Federal Security Service (FSB), a Russian intelligence agency.

Yevgeniy Grinin, 44, Aleksey Ippolitov, 57, and Svetlana Skvortsova, 41, all of Moscow, stand accused of conspiring to send dual-use and military technologies to Russia, along with Boris Livshits, 52, and Vadim Konoshchenok, 48, both of St Petersburg, and Alexey Brayman, 35, and Vadim Yermolenko, 41, of New Hampshire and New Jersey respectively.

However, of these, only suspected FSB agent Konoshchenok and American residents Yermolenko and Brayman have been arrested, with the other four remaining at large, said the US Department of Justice (DoJ), announcing the indictment.

The seven men are accused of working to supply Serniya Engineering and Sertal, Moscow-based companies believed to operate under the direction of Russian intelligence services, with high-tech war-related equipment, including semiconductors and specialized electronic components as well as more conventional military supplies such as ammunition.

The DoJ claims Serniya and Sertal are running “a vast network of shell companies and bank accounts throughout the world” to help the Kremlin clandestinely acquire sanctioned equipment from the US.

How the DoJ thinks it was done

Ippolitov allegedly relayed high-tech orders from Russian clients to Grinin and Skvortsova, who both worked for Sertal. While securing funding and shipping routes to facilitate these, the pair had Livshits procure the restricted articles from US suppliers, according to the DoJ. He is also accused of setting up shell companies and bank accounts in New York, which he, Konoshchenok, Brayman, and Yermolenko allegedly used to finance the scheme covertly.

Konoshchenok is accused of using this network to smuggle US-made ammunition, dual-use electronics, and other controlled items to Russia via Estonia in the Baltic region. The DoJ claims he was stopped at the border of the latter country with 35 types of semiconductors and other components and thousands of 6.5mm bullets used in sniper rifles.

In addition, Konoshchenok is said to have discussed forging business records to conceal the ammunition shipments and pass them off as auto-parts instead, while Livshits allegedly dealt with US suppliers under the alias “David Wetzky” and made misleading claims about how the orders would be used.

US authorities defiant

The case was brought to court with the help of the DoJ’s special task force KleptoCapture, the National Security Division, the Office of International Affairs, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). US authorities were also helped by police in Estonia, who seized 375 pounds of ammunition at a warehouse when Konoshchenok was arrested.

“The defendants perpetrated a sophisticated procurement network to facilitate the Russian war machine,” said US Attorney Breon Peace. “Our office will not rest in its vigorous pursuit of those who unlawfully procure US technology in furtherance of Russia’s continued attacks on democracy.”

“The powerful export controls we’ve put in place have been successful in isolating Russia from the global economy,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod. “Today’s actions demonstrate our vigilance in uncovering Russian tactics to illicitly acquire the items they need to keep their brutal war going.”

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