In October, The Insider revealed how gaps in the complex web of Western sanctions policies have allowed Russia to continue procuring many of the foreign-made tools and components necessary for the production of its hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile, one of the “wonder weapons” unveiled by Vladimir Putin during an infamous 2018 speech that included computer generated graphics showing Russian warheads flying towards the United States. That particular sanctions-busting scheme relied on loopholes and exceptions that make it possible for European companies to continue doing business with key players in the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex — and to do so without formally violating any regulations. However, not all of the methods Moscow uses to keep its war machine running fall “within the parameters of the law.”
One of the firms mentioned in The Insider’s October report was the Moscow-based Sonatek LLC (ООО «Сонатек»), which imports high precision machine tools from a range of European companies hailing from Italy (Tomelleri Engineering), Germany (MESSTECHNIK GMBH) and the United Kingdom (Aberlink). Russia has yet to establish a suitable import substitution alternative for coordinate-measuring machines, making the Russian military-industrial complex heavily reliant on imported products sourced through Sonatek. Although Russian government defense contracts have been classified in recent years, The Insider has obtained information indicating that Sonatek provided supply and maintenance services to a minimum of 18 Russian defense companies in 2022.
After The Insider’s October report was published, several of the European shipping companies that previously offered their services to Sonatek distanced themselves from the Moscow middleman. Among them was Baltic Shipping Agency LTD, a Poland-based firm that was adamant about its desire not to take part in “illegal activities aimed at circumventing sanctions.” However, the Baltic Shipping Agency did indeed exploit gaps in sanctions legislation in order to deliver coordinate-measuring machines to a key cog in the Russian war machine. [Continue reading…]