“For the restless Russian military-industrial complex.” Like the son of the Krasnoyarsk governor, he mined chips bypassing US sanctions
Russian weapons, which Vladimir Putin publicly boasted about before the war, are based, as it turned out after the outbreak of the war, on Western electronic components. As in the times of the USSR, when Soviet spies tried to extract advanced components in the countries of imperialism, today the Russian military-industrial complex cannot cope without the products of the “collective West” with which it is at war.
In particular, Artem Uss, the son of the governor of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Alexander Uss, was involved in supplying arms manufacturers with such products, according to the US Department of Justice. Even before the war, he and his partners built secret supply chains through which he used false documents and Shell. This was done in violation of US export controls and sanctions against Russian arms manufacturers. Uss and the other defendants in the case continued their activities after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although the US imposed numerous new restrictions, according to an indictment seen by Bloomberg.
Uss was detained in October 2022 in Milan at the request of the United States, and was placed under house arrest in November. His extradition hearings are underway. In addition to USS, Russians Yuri Orekhov (he was detained in Germany), Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, Timofey Telegin, Sergey Tulyakov were arrested in the case. “They have built advanced technology procurement systems to directly support the struggling military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation,” the New York Eastern District Attorney’s office said in a statement.
It indicated that the Russians, through a German shell company, bought from American manufacturers electronics used in fighter jets, missile systems, smart munitions, radars, satellites and other military solutions. Among the recipients were the sanctioned Radioavtomatika, Radioexport (its sales director was Tulyakov) and Abtroniks (the former owner was Telegin). Some of the components obtained under this scheme were then found in military equipment captured on the battlefields in Ukraine – such a study was carried out, among others, by Royal United Defense Research Institute (RUSI).
In fact, the actions of the Russians, who are also accused of trafficking in Venezuelan oil, had a much wider range, the prosecutor’s office said. They organized “the illegal export of millions of dollars worth of military and dual-use technology from the United States to Russia and used the American financial system to smuggle millions of barrels of oil out of Venezuela despite the embargo.”
Uss and his associates set up front companies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East – “virtually Trojan horses – to convince chipmakers in California, Pennsylvania and New York that the products are being sold in non-sanctioned jurisdictions,” the indictment said.
They used fake orders, registration details and bills of lading to disguise end recipients as Russian arms manufacturers. Sometimes they told US microelectronics manufacturers that the customer was Roscosmos. One of the leading companies in Malaysia had several addresses, but only one of them had a sign – near an empty room in a shopping complex.
Illegal shipments continued after the start of the war, until at least the end of March 2022, prosecutors said.
Orekhov traveled between Germany and Dubai, where he has a home on the Palm Jumeirah, a palm-shaped man-made island with high-end apartments and luxury hotels. He operated through companies opened in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Russia and Malaysia, the prosecution says.
Uss, according to people familiar with the position of his defense, assures that he committed no crimes and is not responsible for the actions of his co-defendants. He opposes extradition to the United States, where he claims he might be treated unfairly, and asks to be sent to Russia. Russian authorities arrested Uss in absentia and placed him on the money laundering wanted list less than 10 days after his arrest in Milan was revealed.
He began illegally supplying technology to Russia in 2018, according to the indictment. In the same year, his father, United Russia member Alexander Uss, was elected governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, after Putin appointed him interim head of the region a year earlier. Uss in 2018 was the richest governor in terms of both family and personal income. In 2022, Alexander Uss was included in the UK, US, Canada and Ukraine sanctions lists for supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine.
If extradited to the US, Artyom Uss faces up to 30 years in prison. He declined to comment to Bloomberg after a closed meeting in Milan in February.
“It’s a competition to see who has the stronger will,” James Byrne, a security expert at RUSI, told RUSI.