Russia ‘buying back’ military supplies from India, Myanmar: Report

The re-purchased military equipment would be used to improve Russia’s older weapon systems as Moscow prepares for Ukraine’s counter-offensive

NEW DELHI | Updated: 06 June, 2023 9:43 am IST
Modi and Putin
Before invading Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi in December, 2021.

NEW DELHI: Russia is “buying back” arms components it previously exported to India and Myanmar in order to improve its older weapon systems as Ukraine prepares to launch an ambitious counter-offensive.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States, European nations, and Japan have imposed bans on exporting goods with potential military use to Russia.

According to an analysis published by Japan’s Nikkei, Russia is re-importing parts of tanks and missiles that were originally exported to the two Asian nations.

Nikkei’s report is based on analysis of customs clearance data on shipments to Russia, sourced from ImportGenius, Exim Trade Data of India, and other “reliable sources”.

For instance, UralVagonZavod, a Russian tank manufacturer, imported military products from the Myanmar army valued at $24 million on December 9, 2022. These components were registered as the defence maker’s own products. The imported goods included 6,775 sighting telescopes and 200 cameras, which are likely optical devices used to measure distance to targets and zero in on them.

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Nikkei’s further analysis of the customs clearance data revealed a reference to “imported under reclamation act.” This suggests that UralVagonZavod had exported defective military products to the Myanmar army in 2019. However, military analyst Kinichi Nishimura stated that any defective products should have been replaced during a full inspection conducted at the time of import.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Russia currently possesses around 5,000 tanks, many of which are older models in need of modernization. Oleg Ignatov, a Russia analyst with the International Crisis Group, pointed out that optics is a significant challenge for the Russian military-industrial complex, and it is plausible that they are seeking to acquire optics through these repurchases.

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Russia’s previous reliance on Western technology for optical equipment has been hindered by trade sanctions, making it difficult for them to procure the necessary components.

Additionally, the Russian NPK KBM, responsible for missile production, purchased six components for night-vision sight for ground-to-air missiles from the Indian defence ministry. These parts, manufactured by KBM, are crucial for the missiles’ nighttime and low-light performance. While Russia may have reimported these parts for repairs, there are no records indicating their return to India.

India has been the largest customer of Russian arms, accounting for 35 per cent of Russia’s overseas arms shipments over the past decade, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). China and Algeria follow India as major purchasers of Russian arms.

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