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Russian cruise missiles with TÜV seal

Russia attacks Ukraine with missiles and drones almost every day. It also contains electronics from the West. How can this be – despite the sanctions in force?

By Tobias Dammers and Mathea Schülke, ARD Kiev

These are explosive finds that Andrii Rudyk from the Ukrainian General Staff brought with him. His unit analyzes the remains of Russian weapons and, above all, their foreign components. He presents parts of the on-board computer of a Russian KH101 cruise missile, which has often caused death and destruction in Ukraine. Inside there are several box-shaped, white voltage converters. “Made in the USA,” it says, and a TÜV logo can also be seen. “This onboard computer controls the flight of the cruise missile,” explains Rudyk. “This makes it a high-precision weapon.”

According to Rudyk, Russia relies heavily on foreign high-tech components because the country is unable to produce them itself. According to him, more than 70 percent of the components examined come from abroad: for example microchips, processors, cameras, antennas or modern navigation technology. “Everything related to high-precision technology is fully imported,” says the employee of the Ukrainian General Staff.

A US component with the TÜV logo can be seen in the remains of the on-board computer of a Russian KH101 cruise missile.

Component was manufactured during wartime

This probably also includes the voltage converter of the on-board computer. It was manufactured by the US company Vicor, based in Massachusetts. According to its website, the company produces energy modules and complete power supply systems. The Vicor location in Ismaning near Munich is responsible for “Eastern Europe”.

After ARD– According to research, the presumed date of manufacture according to the serial number is September 2022 – a good six months after the start of the Russian invasion. At a time when the US Department of Commerce had already imposed strict export restrictions. It explicitly lists current transformers as items “of paramount importance due to their critical role in the production of modern Russian precision weapons.”

Manufacturer does not respond to request

Why did the converter end up on a Russian cruise missile? How did he get there despite strict export controls? And how does a TÜV seal get on this component? On ARDThe company does not comment on the request, including the presumed date and place of manufacture.

The Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, András Rácz, explains that Russia has had experience of circumventing sanctions since Soviet times and has probably been putting aside Western high-tech components as a precautionary measure since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The country also has a “dense network of networks” and had already brought in offshore, letterbox companies and other intermediaries before the full Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Kuleba demands noticeable consequences

According to the Russia expert, the export of sanctioned goods, which are often so-called “dual-use goods” and are also intended for civil use, takes place primarily via third countries such as China, Turkey or Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba therefore calls for this in an interview with ARD-Studio Kiev noticeable consequences for these countries. In addition, private companies need to be better informed about the damage their goods exported to Russia cause in Ukraine. Above all, he demands stricter export controls. Because, says Kuleba: “Given the mass of components that end up in Russia and the scale of the attacks on Ukraine, export controls are almost like a new type of air defense.”

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