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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

Russia Importing China's Military-Grade DJI Drones

Russia has for months been importing drones from Chinese companies explicitly for use in its invasion of Ukraine, despite denials from Beijing that such equipment is being deployed in the war, a Nikkei Asia investigation has found, contributing writer Jacob Fromer also reported.

Photo Insert: An industrial-grade DJI drone.

Between December 2022 and April 2023, Russian companies imported at least 37 Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles worth around $103,000 that were designated in customs clearance records as being "for use in the special military operation," the Russian government's name for the Ukraine war.

Since the beginning of the invasion 16 months ago, Beijing has repeatedly denied providing weapons to Moscow for use in the invasion.

And while previous reporting has shown that Russia stepped up its imports of Chinese drones after the war began, Beijing has denied that China is exporting drones to the battlefields of Ukraine.

"China calls on all relevant parties to work together to strengthen controls, prevent all types of drones from being used on battlefields in conflict areas, and jointly promote international peace and regional stability," a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce said in April.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

But Nikkei's reporting shows that for months, Russian companies have been quietly filling out customs paperwork for the import of drones, including machines manufactured by US-sanctioned DJI, China's biggest drone maker, marking them for use in the war.

It is unclear whether the Chinese companies or government is aware of Russia's customs records regarding the drones.

Government & politics: Politicians, government officials and delegates standing in front of their country flags in a political event in the financial district.

Nikkei obtained the Russian customs records from multiple sources, including Indian companies Exim Trade Data and Export Genius, and analyzed shipments from China to Russia.

The label "for use in the special military operation" began appearing in customs records late last year, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to increase the supply of goods needed for the war.

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