U.S. intelligence agencies say China helping Russia evade sanctions, export controls

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China has become a major economic supporter of Russia since the invasion of Ukraine and is assisting Moscow in evading economic sanctions and export controls on technology, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment made public Thursday.

The report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said China is now Russia’s most important trading partner and is buying discounted oil that provides a major source of revenue for Moscow as it scrambles to finance its 17-month-old invasion of Ukraine.

Russian imports from China in 2022 were estimated at $76 billion, a 13% boost, and exports to China rose by 43% to $114 billion, the report on Chinese support to Russia states. The study, summarizing U.S. intelligence on Chinese military and non-military aid to Russia, was required under congressional legislation authorizing intelligence activities.



The report concluded that China “is pursuing a variety of economic support mechanisms for Russia that mitigate both the impact of Western sanctions and export controls.”

The report, released by the House Intelligence Committee, made no mention of direct military weaponry being sent to the Russians. The Biden administration early this year said it had raised concerns with Beijing over lethal military aid to Russia, but said it had seen no clear signs such aid had been given.

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Thursday that the report highlights the extent of Chinese support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the need for U.S. and Western pressure on China to prevent the aid flow from expanding.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine has been enabled in no small part by China’s willingness to support them, in direct and indirect ways,” said Mr. Himes. “I hope this report makes clear to Beijing that the United States, and the world, will know if they take further actions to enable Putin’s brutal invasion.”

Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, recently criticized China’s backing for the Kremlin, noting the “sheer support from the [Chinese Communist Party for the] … illegal, illegitimate war the Russians are waging on Ukraine.”

China has refused to condemn the Russian invasion, he said, and has backed the Russians “in the information space” by amplifying Russian propaganda claims that NATO caused the Ukraine conflict.

“That is a complete falsehood,” Adm. Aquilino told the Aspen Security Forum last week.

For oil trade, Chinese supertankers and insurance coverage are helping Moscow to move Russian crude from the Urals region to Chinese ports, the ODNI report said. The support followed a decision by the U.S. and other G-7 nations to restrict the use of Western cargo services and insurance for Russian oil shipments.

Chinese firms also are supplying some “dual-use” technology that is assisting Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, the report said.

“The customs records show PRC state-owned defense companies shipping navigation equipment, jamming technology and fighter-jet parts to sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies,” the report said.

Moscow also has been acquiring computer chips by using cutouts in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security imposed sanctions on 24 Chinese companies for their support of the Russian military or defense industry.

After Russia was blocked from using the SWIFT financial messaging system, China helped Russia by increasing trade in China’s own yuan currency. More than 20 banks in Russia now use China’s version of SWIFT.

China also supplied more than $12 million worth of drones and drone parts to Russia, according to the report.

In August 2022, the Chinese state-run China Poly Technologies, placed on the U.S. Commerce Department’s blacklist in 2013, sent navigational gear to the Russian state-owned military export company for use on M-17 transport helicopters. Chinese-made telescoping antennas for military vehicles for electronic jamming also were supplied to the Russians.

Another Chinese firm, China Taly Aviation Technologies Corp. sent parts to a Russian missile manufacturer for use on mobile radar. The radar can be used to detect enemy jet fighters, missiles and drones for Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, now deployed in Ukraine.

According to the report, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in April when military cooperation was discussed. The partnership between Beijing and Moscow was called “boundless” during the meeting.

“During that meeting, Putin announced that the Russian and PRC militaries were regularly exchanging information, working together in the field of military-technical cooperation, and holding joint exercises in the Far East and in Europe, involving land, naval and air forces,” the report said.

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