Russians use Chinese vehicles to build defensive lines in occupied territories – WSJ

Tuesday, 22 August 2023, 20:25

Chinese exports to Russia have increased sharply since last year, especially when it comes to excavators and other equipment used by the Russians to dig trenches and fortify the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Source: Wall Street Journal, with reference to trade data

Details: The volume of China's total trade with Russia increased to US$134 billion in the first seven months of this year, up 36% from the same period last year. Beijing supplies Russia with a range of goods, including those with potential military applications such as microchips and excavators for digging trenches.

During this period, Chinese exports to Russia increased by 73%, even though China's total exports fell by 5%. The Bank of Finland estimates that China is now the source of 45% to 50% of Russian imports, up from 25% before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Western sanctions have limited Russia's access to many Western-made goods, so Chinese companies have filled this gap with their own products – cars, electronics, food, tobacco, metals, smartphones and other consumer goods. China will benefit from this, especially when the country's economy faces a number of challenges, in particular with a decrease in demand from Western countries.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese firms provided Russia with computer chips, jet fighter components, navigation, and jamming technology. A report released by the American Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month says China was assisting Russia in circumventing sanctions and acquiring technology with military applications.

It is noteworthy that exactly a year ago, Russian imports of Chinese earthmoving equipment began to grow sharply. In the first seven months of the year, China sold Russia almost twice as many front-end loaders and more than three times as many excavators than in the same period a year earlier.

According to Joseph Webster, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, this indicates that Russia is using some of these excavators to build fortifications in the war against Ukraine.

"Chinese companies have enabled the construction of Russian fortifications in Ukraine. That’s not a coincidence, that’s when Russian forces really started to entrench themselves, when they started retreating [a year ago – EP]."

According to a video released on his official Telegram account, Valery Limarenko, the governor of the Russian region of Sakhalin, gave brand-new excavators produced in China to troops deployed in Ukraine's Donbas in June.

In addition, Chinese car exports to Russia also increased sharply after deliveries from Europe almost stopped at the beginning of last year. In the first six months of this year, China exported more than 341,000 cars to Russia, which is almost six times more than in the first half of 2022.

Background: Since the beginning of the full-scale war, China has made thousands of deliveries for Russian companies, – some of them under sanctions, – which produce rocket launchers, armoured vehicles and strategic bombers.

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