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Taiwan-made equipment shipped to Russian defense industry last year

NT$632 million in equipment reportedly exported from Taiwan firm to Russian client

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Stock image of a cutting laser on a CNC machine. (Unsplash photo)

Stock image of a cutting laser on a CNC machine. (Unsplash photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan-made precision machine tools were shipped to the Russian defense industry despite export controls last year, reported the Washington Post.

On Thursday (Feb. 1) it was reported that a Russian company imported Taiwanese precision machine tools that could be used in weapons manufacturing last year. Experts suggested this may violate restrictions on exports to Russia.

The newspaper found that I Machine Technology, a technology import firm headquartered in Moscow, was supporting Russia’s program to manufacture attack drones with the help of a Taiwanese partner. A video shows Aleksey Bredikhin, the chief executive of the company, saying: “I especially want to welcome our friends from faraway Taiwan ... For almost a year now, we have been working very hard.”

According to trade records and Russian tax information obtained by the newspaper, since January 2023, I Machine Technology has imported over US$20 million (NT$632 million) in Taiwan-made precision equipment. These computer-controlled machines automate the movement and precision of machine tools and are vital to many industries, including weapons manufacturing.

Records show that Taiwan-made machines from I Machine Tools accounted for almost all of I Machine Technology’s imports in the first seven months of last year. The vast majority of the company’s sales during the same period were to the Russian defense industry.

Bredikhin aimed to supply these machines to a covert Russian operation and mass-produce attack drones used against Ukraine. This was according to an invitation delivered to a project manager in charge of manufacturing engines for the drone project obtained by the newspaper.

Bredikhin admitted that he had imported CNC machine tools from I Machine Tools for many years, but he denied that he continued to do so after the restrictions came into effect in January last year. He said shipments after that were of spare parts and therefore did not violate export controls.

Yu Ming-je (游明哲), a sales director for I Machine Tools, said that as soon as Taiwan implemented export restrictions, his company stopped all shipments to I Machine Technology. However, after being informed of the records collected by the newspaper, he admitted there were shipments last year, but claimed that those were parts that were not subject to export controls.

Taiwan rebuked Russia's invasion of Ukraine and implemented technology export controls against Russia in April 2022. In January 2023, it widened the controls to include specified CNC machine tools, resulting in control measures that were "substantially equal" to those of the E.U. and the U.S., said the International Trade Administration.

A joint investigation by the The Reporter on Jan. 24 and The Insider found that Taiwanese firms exported precision machine tools to Russia.